Zambia: COVID-19 in the country, like the rest of Africa, brings hardship to the people who face an uncertain future. We talked with Frankson Samende, the Movement For Multiparty Democracy (MMD) Constituency Chairman for Siavonga District. Frankson, a community leader, and headman also tucked away communication experience working as the Chairperson for Kariba FM Radio Champions from 2013 to 2015.
Frankson currently works for the Yalelo Fisheries company in the southern town of Siavonga on the northern bank of Lake Kariba. Well respected in the town and district, Frankson talked about how the coronavirus affects the people in his area. South Africa brought in some of the most draconian COVID-19 shutdown regulations in the world. These include bans on alcohol, cigarettes, and night curfews. So, we asked about the restrictions in Zambia.
Zambia COVID-19 Q&A with Frankson Samende of the MMD
SAns Newsfeed (SANS): South Africa banned tobacco and alcohol products since March. Did the Zambian government do anything like that?
Frankson Samende (FS): “Zambia did nothing [severe] like that.”
Actually there were some restrictions of alcohol in the country, but they started lifting them in June, according to Africa CGTN. But, they never actually banned the sale or transport of alcohol. They merely closed bars and night clubs as part of their social distancing program. That remains in place, but some restaurants start reopening.
SANS: Did your government ban travel for leisure? If so, did that affect many tourism-based companies in town?
FS: “Zambia did ban travel for leisure initially, but later lifted some of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.”
Confirming that, The Points Guy (UK) reported that “Zambia…reopened its air borders as of late June as a way to rebuild the heavily impacted tourism sector.” However, it seems a 14-day mandatory self-quarantine period remains.
Employment impact in Siavonga, Zambia
SANS: How has the virus affected people and employment in Siavonga?
FS: “The Virus has negatively impacted the people of Siavonga in the sense that the employment market became stagnant.”
People who live in the area primarily rely on formal employment in the fishing and tourism sectors. But, many of the freshwater sardine (Kapenta) companies saw declining catches pre-COVID-19. But, Yalelo’s investment helped with employment in the area.
Meanwhile, Siavonga, just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Lusaka city provides an inland sea, with access to fishing, game viewing, and boating. Known as Zambia’s inland riviera, lost income from tourists definitely seems to have impacted on the job security of locals. However, unlike South Africa where a blanket ban on non-essential travel’s been in place for some time, some tourism from locals seemed salvageable. The Eagles Rest Resort notes on their website, that they only open on a “self-catering basis.”
COVID-19 and Zambian government assistance
SANS: Do you know of anyone infected with the virus or who died in Siavonga? And, what does your government do to assist people?
FS: “As far as I’m aware, no one has been found to be with COVID-19 or died of the disease in Siavonga.” With regards to government assistance, “The Government is not giving out any material or food assistance to residents in Siavonga.” However, “they bring awareness of the pandemic via local radio stations and posters about the disease.”
SANS: Do Zambians feel the worst is yet to come or are you getting over the virus now?
FS: Zambians expect the worst to come as the number of COVID-19 cases are slowly rising.
Worldometers Info reports that with effect from July 30, Zambia reported 5,249 cases, 146 deaths, and 3,285 recoveries. The country population’s estimated at approximately 18,3 million people.
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