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Why Bulawayo is coming together

A group of prominent Bulawayo residents has taken the lead in helping to prepare the city’s health facilities to handle Covid-19 patients at a time the government is struggling to put together a coherent response to the pandemic that has affected millions across the globe.

Three of the personalities behind the #1am4Byo Fighting Covid-19 initiative, Rita Dlodlo (RD), Busisa Moyo (BM) and Nkosana Mazibisa (NM) recently appeared on Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube’s online show In Conversation with Trevor where they shared their vision.

Below are excerpts from the interview

TN: Welcome to In Conversation with Trevor to the three of you, starting off with Dr Rita Dlodlo. Dr Dlodlo, you are a public health specialist with special interest in tuberculosis. (We have) Busisa Moyo, who is the CEO of United Refineries, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, and also the chairperson of Zida. I suppose, you know Busisa, congratulations for your recent appointment to both the Zida board and the ZITF board. Congratulations.
BM: Thank you Trevor.

TN: And welcome to Nkosana Mazibisa. Nkosana, you are an international award winning social entrepreneur. You are a 2016 (Nelson) Mandela Washington Alumni, and you are pretty much involved with young people getting into business. So welcome to you all.
We are discussing a very noble cause that you have all started, which is called #Iam4ByoFightingCovid-19.

Now Busisa, let’s get into the project, the noble project that the three of you have been involved in plus other colleagues. And the project is called #Iam4ByoFightingCovid-19. In the first instance, Busisa, what motivated the group to say, let us come together, point number one, and point number two, who is involved in this multi-stakeholder coalition that you are involved in?

BM: Thank you very much Trevor. So, at a national level, we had a group called Business Fighting Covid-19.

This was made up of CEOs from around the country, who saw the need for non-state actors to respond, in particular, business.

And we started, on that group, and I am still on that platform as a representative for Bulawayo.

But as we progressed, we realised that various places in the country have certain peculiarities and those peculiarities needed tailored solutions.

For example, Bulawayo has two referral hospitals. Bulawayo has Ekusileni Medical Centre, a hospital built by the Harvard Business School sometime in the late 90s, Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital, so very peculiar centres.

So, we saw the need to tailor and localise responses.

That is why we ended up saying let’s structure this into a formal Bulawayo initiative working with people in Bulawayo, health care officials like my esteemed colleague, Dr Rita Dlodlo who is very humble, but very experienced in the health sector.

There are others like Dr Dickson, Dr Wedu Ndebele, and many other CEOs of the hospitals.

We recently had a provincial medical director being appointed, who is part of our group and we are working hard to support him.

So this multi-stakeholder platform of non-state actors, essentially, Trevor, responding to the call by government to participate and contribute, whether its with resources, money, time, in responding to this pandemic because Bulawayo, as I said, is a peculiar case, it’s a route centre.

We are connected to Botswana. We are connected to South Africa directly — a lot of traffic comes through.

When people want to travel from Botswana to Gwanda, they will come through here.

They want to come from South Africa to Plumtree, Hwange, Victoria Falls, they will all come through Bulawayo.

So it’s a route city and that presents a certain vulnerability to infections from hotspots like South Africa, which is, you know, has a high rate of infections and cases at the moment.

That is what led to us looking at Bulawayo’s unique position and responding through this collective of health professionals, business (players), churches, religious groups, and other well-wishers, the diaspora has been actually phenomenal.

Actually in our group, Trevor, we have a young lady sitting in Brussels, Nomsa Ndebele, who has done all our artwork.

That is the beauty of technology and things like Zoom where you can get everyone involved and all the beautiful minds coming together and contributing to this initiative.

TN: And going to Nkosana Mazibisa, an international award winning social entrepreneur, congratulations for the award and I see you have just published a book, wishing you all the best with that book.

Congratulations on that book. Exciting to see a young person getting involved in a project of this nature! Share with me what got you involved in this project Nkosana?

NM: Thanks a lot Trevor. One thing I like about the initiative is that it is very inclusive.

We cannot fight Covid-19 without including young people, who form 60% of the mainstream of the population.

And one of my favourite quotes is that, “what’s nobler about employment is there other than a man, who instructs a rising generation.”

So, for us, it is better to have a better country. It is better to have it now by involving young people to learn that leadership is not about having positions.

It is always about influence in our small spheres, be it at the church, be it work, be it school.

Are we able to close gaps and work together against one common enemy?

In this case, it is Covid-19, which does not know any colour or creed.

So, as a young person, I felt it was very important to be part of the movement.

So, I fall under the communications cluster, leading on community mobilisation and participation.

As long as there is no community mobilisation and participation, then we will not be able to deal with Covid-19.

TN: Tell me Nkosana, what has been the response, one, to your involvement, and secondly to the entire initiative?

NM: The involvement has been so phenomenal. It is so positive.

I attribute this more to the leadership of the initiative, the fact that we are inclusive, we are open, and we are very positive.

You may have the best of the best ideas but as long as you do not know how to harness social circles, then your idea won’t move fast.

So, young people have come on board. For an example, I can give a good number.

We have Bukhosi Sibanda from Highlanders Football Club, we have Butholezwe Kgosi (Nyathi), the regional director of the National Art Gallery. We have Joubert Ngwenya, who is an educator, a young person, and we have quite a number of young people.

Some might not be doing videos. Others are behind the scenes doing graphic designs.

Others are doing the video editing because they are contributing their skills to this so that there is information dissemination.

What is critical is that there should be information dissemination to all communities and young people are taking cognisance of that.

TN: That is inspiring and great to hear. I am hoping that your involvement in this is going to inspire more young people to come in and participate in whatever role the initiative calls upon them to do.

Busisa, you raised an issue, which some of us tend to forget, and that is to a very large extent, Bulawayo is a hub. Do you think that is the reason why it looks like Bulawayo is the epicentre of the pandemic at the moment?

BM: Trevor, it is an emphatic yes, and I think that we have, I will give you an example, just yesterday; we had 500 people deported from Botswana.

Plumtree could not keep all those people.

They had to come here. We had another group earlier, coming out of South Africa that is also being quarantined here in the city.

And besides our diaspora, a lot of our young people, because Trevor, Bulawayo, you know, I want to use the word isolated for a long time and has gone through de-industrialisation, a lot of our young people are working in restaurants in South Africa.

When South Africa locks down, they make their way home because they cannot stay there.

They have to, and I know there was a rush to get to the border, because we move goods through the Beitbridge border and soon after the lockdown was announced, and you would remember the lockdown was announced on a weekend but targeting a Thursday, those four days were an absolute nightmare at the Beitbridge border and my assumption is that a lot of our young people were coming back home.

So this creates a lot of vulnerabilities for Bulawayo as you have correctly pointed out, it is a hub and we are seeing the number of cases in the city, but it is also not well-equipped to handle that because of de-industrialisation, because of the years of being isolated for various reasons we find ourselves in a position where we have to respond and come together.

The other thing, Trevor, is that Bulawayo is a referral centre for the whole region.

The southern part of the country, Masvingo refers people here when they cannot handle cases. Gweru refers people, Plumtree, Hwange, Victoria Falls, when the cases get to a certain level, all look to Bulawayo.

So, #Iam4Byo is doing another thing in our psyche to get us primed, that we have a leadership role for a whole sub-region of Zimbabwe. Those who are joining us to support us are not just supporting Bulawayo, they are supporting, really, the southern parts of the country, which has immense challenges in terms of resources, staffing, equipment and so on.

TN: So, clearly, as Busisa has outlined right now, Bulawayo looks like the epicentre. Dr. Dlodlo, let me cross over to you right now, regarding the processes that are key in terms of flattening the curve, that is testing, tracing, treatment, and isolation, if you can talk to us briefly about that, your testing capacity in Bulawayo, your tracing, treatment, and isolation centres that you have in Bulawayo?

RD: Those things that you have mentioned form the basis of any response to any pandemic and in this case to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care publishes daily reports of tests that have been done and as of yesterday, a total of
4 159 tests had been carried out throughout the country.

Just picking on the 24-hour period from the 20th to the 21st of April, 841 tests were done nationwide.

I would like to highlight that in Bulawayo alone, a total of 200 tests were done out of the 841 tests that I have alluded to.

That is the largest number in any locality, in any province.

So as we are a hub and as many roads lead and many referrals lead to Bulawayo, I think the city is ready to attend to persons suspected to have Covid-19 and who need testing and whose contacts need to be client listed, traced, screened, and possibly tested.

I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to the private health care providers, who are of course very much required, to come and assist the Health ministry and public health sector’s response to this outbreak, to liaise with the ministry and to share statistics on the number of tests that they would have done and the outcomes of those cases and details of persons, who may have died.

This is of fundamental importance.

Otherwise we would not know, as Zimbabweans, of what would have happened.

And I want to emphasise that one person out of the three, who have died, who are Zimbabweans was lost here in Bulawayo in a private hospital.

This case as well as the death was appropriately reported to the authorities.

I really appeal to stakeholders for a real private public partnership in this time of preparation as we are learning to manage this outbreak.

It means the private sector really has to come to the game and work together with authorities, be they in local authorities or in the ministry of health.

l “In Conversation With Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor. Please get your free YouTube subscription to this channel. The conversations are sponsored by Titan Law.

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