CHIEF government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says anyone is free to donate whatever they have towards the fight against COVID-19, even if it is PF-branded material which people can use to make face masks.

And Siliya says it is not a directive that bus owners should reduce the number of passengers in the buses but that they should consider it their responsibility to protect the lives of passengers.

Responding to a question from a journalist who wanted to know whether donating PF-branded face masks was not politicizing the pandemic, Siliya said such an argument was pedestrian.

“I think where we are now, we are saying that we are in very difficult times everybody wants to participate to ensure that they do their part in terms of ensuring that they are all Zambians safe. We have seen various political parties we saw the Patriotic Front secretary general, we have seen the UPND donate to Ministry of Home Affairs for correctional services. I think at this point in time everybody is saying let us do whatever we can in putting the politics away but whatever can be done whether you have found a piece of material that belongs to PF and it can help save somebody’s life. I do not think that government will stand up and say ‘no, we don’t want you to save somebody’s life’ because for some people, they don’t have any material to make a mask. Remember that this disease is spreading very quickly we were just a few cases just under a month ago today you have seen on the screen how widespread it has become in Lusaka so if we can support as many people as possible,” Siliya said.

“I have seen the Presidential initiative that they are supporting women to earn a livelihood but at the same time giving them raw available materials to make these masks. I don’t believe this is the time to be finger pointing, this is the time for the whole of Zambia to be focused one fighting enemy. And it is going to be done through the Anglican church, the Catholic church through Pentecostal, the PF, UPND, FDD, unions, teachers, youths groups, markets, the objective must be we fight this disease because if we don’t, all these institutions we are talking about will not be there. What we want is to save this country so that we can continue with our family life, livelihoods and business so for now, I think that is a pedestrian argument, the issue is that we fight coronavirus.”

And Siliya urged bus owners to make some sacrifices.

“When the government puts up measures, these measures, these are evidence based measures advised by the Ministry of Heath. Now obviously, at the same time, it is important that we have measures in place that are commiserate with our situation and government did advise and separate non-essential business from essential business and transport was deemed as an essential business and public transport has continued. Now, first of all, there is a responsibility of the bus owner to want to ensure that there is a business at the end of corona because if people are infected, there will be no business for the bus owner so there is a responsibility for the bus owner to adhere to government advice through the Minister of Health and the Minister of Transport and Communications who has advised that we must observe social distancing. If you are going to observe social distancing in a 16 sitter, the Ministry of Health and Transport have recommended that let us operate at 50 per cent capacity,” said Siliya.

“The driver and the conductor are also at risk and that is why we want to protect them and their family. We have said that it is important that you observe this 50 percent operating capacity for now until the end of corona. For other businesses which are deemed non-essential such as restaurants and bars, they have actually shut down. But for transport, we have said do your business, you suffer a little bit but let us hold each other’s hands so that we can fight this corona. And then there is also a passenger getting on the bus you also want to insist and ensure that you get into a bus that is safe because it is not full because you are not packed like kapenta in a plastic bag all over each other. You have to observe social distancing. And most of all, the President has pronounced wearing of masks so that we can protect each other even in that minibus where we are.”