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Key findings
  • Almost seven out of 10 adult Zimbabweans (68%) consider themselves “somewhat” or “very” well informed” about COVID-19 and efforts to fight it.
  • About one in 10 (8%) say someone in their household became ill with COVID-19, and almost half (47%) say a household member lost a job, business, or primary source of income due to COVID-19.
  • Even though more than three-fourths (77%) of citizens say it was difficult to comply with lockdown/curfew restrictions, most Zimbabweans (81%) support the restrictions as necessary.
  • The same majority (81%) agree with the government’s decision to close the schools, although most (85%) say they should have reopened sooner.
  • Only one in 10 (10%) say their household received pandemic-related assistance from the government, and a plurality (48%) of citizens say such assistance was distributed unfairly.
  • More than eight in 10 Zimbabweans approve of the government’s performance in managing the pandemic (81%) and keeping the public informed (81%). But a majority (54%) believe that “some” or “a lot” of the resources available for responding to the pandemic were lost to government corruption.
  • Fewer than half of citizens trust the government to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe (45%) and say they are likely to try to get vaccinated (46%).
  • Almost three-fourths (72%) of Zimbabweans say the government is justified in using the police or military to enforce public health mandates during a health emergency. But only 43% say a pandemic justifies censorship of the media.

Zimbabwe has not been spared the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of 16 June 2021, the country had recorded 40,077 confirmed cases and 1,635 deaths of COVID-19 (World Health Organization, 2021). Lockdowns have threatened many households with destitution and hunger (News24, 2021).

The government pre-emptively declared COVID-19 a national disaster on 17 March 2020, three days before the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed, and a week later closed schools until phased reopenings starting in September (Mukeredzi, 2020). A nationwide lockdown in March-April 2020 was followed by slightly relaxed sets of restrictions, then reimposed in January 2021 after a surge in COVID-19 cases. About 1,107,000 vaccine doses have been administered in the country (World Health Organization, 2021).

Enforcement of lockdown restrictions has been harsh, marked by arrests of suspected violators and accusations of human-rights abuses by members of the country’s military and police (Zimbabwe Peace Project, 2021; Amnesty International, 2020).

A new Afrobarometer survey shows that even though almost half of Zimbabweans say their household lost a primary source of income during the pandemic, most citizens approve of the government’s overall management of the pandemic. Most Zimbabweans endorse lockdowns and school closures as painful but necessary.

But very few report receiving pandemic-related assistance from the government, and a majority believe that COVID-19 resources were lost to government corruption. A majority doubt the government’s ability to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe, and fewer than half say they are likely to try to get vaccinated.

Stephen Ndoma

Stephen is the assistant project manager for Southern Africa

Simangele Moyo-Nyede

Simangele is a research officer Mass Public Opinion Institute

Jonathan Kugarakuripi

Jonathan Kugarakuripi is a research officer for Mass Public Opinion Institute in Harare