Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report: 8-9 May 2020 – Days 40 & 41

Introduction

8 and 9 May 2020 marked days 40 and 41 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. This national lockdown was initially supposed to last for twenty-one days from 30 March 2020 to 19 April 2020 but has since been extended twice now to 17 May 2020.

On 9 May, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that one thousand and five hundred and seventy-eight (1 578) tests were conducted increasing the cumulative tests of suspected COVID-19 cases to twenty thousand five hundred and thirty-seven (20 537). Of these, twenty thousand five hundred and one (20 501) were negative. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to thirty-six (36) including nine (9) recoveries and four (4) deaths.

Methodology

Information contained in this report is derived from the following Forum Members: Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP); Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA); Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR); Counselling Services Unit (CSU); Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR); Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights); Excerpts from reports generated by Heal Zimbabwe Trust and Community Radio Harare have also been incorporated in this report.

Emerging issues

The following issues have emerged as a result of the level 2 lockdown.

Impact on communities

Community members nationally are failing to access personal protective equipment including face masks due to their high cost. Reports received from the Tynwald suburb of Harare indicated that the majority of community members queued at N. Richards Wholesale did not have face masks. As a result, the security guards manning the entrance were not granting access to customers without face masks. In recorded incidences in Mutare, Chipinge, Chinhoyi and Chiredzi, some community members were detained or turned back by police officers at checkpoints for not wearing face masks.

Due to the economic hardships being faced by community members, an increase in vendors and informal traders in Harare was reported with some selling their wares at bus terminuses in Glen Norah and shopping centres in Epworth. In Gokwe, Glen Norah and Makoni shopping centre located in Chitungwiza, it was reported that police officers were taking bribes from community members, vendors and informal traders who were caught not wearing face masks. It was alleged that the bribes ranged between ZWL100 to ZWL200. Reports from Mutoko indicate that emergency taxi operators in Mutoko centre have resumed operations although they remain banned under the level 2 lockdown regulations. It was alleged that police officers are taking ZWL100 bribes from emergency taxi operators to allow them to operate.

Long, crowded queues of community members queueing for water at community boreholes were observed in Chitungwiza, Mkoba in Gweru, Cowdry Park in Bulawayo, Chikanga in Mutare, and Majange in Masvingo. Water challenges continue to be a risk factor for community members who are forced to spend protracted periods at community boreholes in pursuit of clean potable water. In their pursuit of clean and potable water at community boreholes in most high-density suburbs community members appear not to respect stipulated COVID-19 measures including social distancing and wearing masks.

Due to the prolonged lockdown, community members are experiencing food shortages. In Masvingo, villagers from Namakwa growth point reportedly bought government subsidised mealie meal at ZWL70 for 10kg. Similar reports were received from Chinhoyi were community members were buying subsidized mealie meal at Gains supermarket. This follows the program by the Grain Millers Association (GMA) to assist community members with subsidized food. In Chiendambuya and Nyanga North, retailers have increased prices of basic commodities. It was also reported that most of the retailers are now selling their commodities exclusively in US Dollars. Most people are therefore failing to buy basic commodities for their families.

Lockdown enforcement

During the 14th Cabinet Meeting, Cabinet agreed to enlist the services of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) in enforcing the national lockdown and to help with other logistics related to the pandemic. As a result, reports received from Chikomba, Mazowe, Mutoko and Marondera indicated that there was heavy deployment of soldiers. In the aforementioned areas, armed soldiers were seen patrolling the streets in military vehicles. In Harare and Bulawayo, soldiers were also observed on major checkpoints and patrolling with ZRP officers.

Lockdown Defiance

There was a nationwide increase in the defiance of the national lockdown. Community members in Bikita were observed at Ngorima township drinking alcohol in groups. Similar reports were reported in Mbare and Sunningdale in Harare where community members were observed drinking alcohol purchased from illegal bars set up in backyards. In St Mary’s in Chitungwiza, youths were seen loitering in the streets without face masks. In Mbare, community members were gathered at an open field near Waneka flats where there was an amateur football match.

COVID-19 National Preparedness and Response

As part of efforts by the government to decentralize COVID-19 testing and isolation centres, Mvurwi Hospital was designated a COVID-19 solation centre. It was reported that the hospital is no longer attending to patients with other ailments. Some patients were discharged while others were transferred to Concession Hospital which is 47km away from Mvurwi.

Fair and equitable distribution of resources

As Zimbabwe battles the COVID-19 pandemic, the Forum implores the government to fairly and equitably distribute food aid among the most vulnerable people in the communities. In a recent report published by Human Rights Watch, there are indications that some people are being denied food aid along political lines. Reports highlight that the problem is acute in rural areas. Under the current circumstances, millions are dependent on the government for survival and sustenance. The Forum is also concerned with the lack of transparency in food distribution through the government’s relief program.

In Hwange, ZANU PF representative Senator Molly Mnkandla distributed food aid to vulnerable members of society which include the elderly and people with disabilities. However, it was reported that only ZANU PF supporters benefited from the food distribution. Similar reports of partisan distribution of food were reported in Bindura where ZANU PF secretary Grace Yaso reportedly distributed food to ZANU PF supporters only, sidelining opposition party supporters. In these trying times, using food for political expediency is deplorable given that most community members have not been productive for the past 40 days.

Mandatory quarantine

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana indicated that eleven (11) buses with five hundred and twenty-seven (527) deportees from South Africa which include 7 women and 520 men arrived in Beitbridge on 9 May 2020. Of the 527 deportees, 129 are ex-convicts. The deportees will be quarantined for 21 days as follows: 2 will be quarantined in Mashonaland East; 4 in Mashonaland Central to be quarantined at Bindura University, Madziwa Teachers’ College in Shamva and Chaminuka Vocational Training College in Mt. Darwin; 5 in Mashonaland West; 101 in Bulawayo; 100 in Masvingo to join Rupangwana which currently holds 19 people and Masvingo Teachers College which currently holds 79 people; 41 in Midlands; 69 in Manicaland; 54 in Matabeleland North; 64 in Matabaland South and 87 in Harare.

It was also reported that police officers in Masvingo intercepted 14 suspected border jumpers coming from South Africa at a checkpoint in Ngundu.

Since the lockdown started on 30 March 2020, the total number of people that came from Botswana and quarantined in Plumtree is 1 291. Of the 1291 people that came through from Botswana, 287 are quarantined at Plumtree High School and 128 at Allen Redfern Primary School in Plumtee. In order to ease crowding at these facilities, some of the returnees were then moved to Bulawayo where they are currently quarantined at Bulawayo Polytechnic and United College of Education (UCE). According to reports, 15 more people are expected to be received from Botswana.

Conditions in the mandatory quarantine centres have raised concerns from health professionals and the general public. According to investigative journalists and health professionals, the mandatory quarantine facilities are crowded, and sometimes lack basic necessities such as blankets and food.

Assaults

In Beitbridge, seven (7) police officers assaulted a man for selling mealie meal. It was reported that the man was assaulted with baton sticks after police officers who were on patrol intercepted him selling mealie meal from the boot of his car. The police officers reportedly confiscated 60kgs of roller meal mealie-meal after assaulting the man. The man sustained injuries to his face and right hand as a result of the assault.

In Mkoba, police officers assaulted three (3) men with baton sticks for not wearing face masks. It was reported that police officers intercepted the three (3) men who indicated that they were on their way to Gweru CBD to buy groceries. The three (3) men were ordered to go back to their homes as they had no face masks, however, the trio refused to go back to their homes leading to the assault.

Arrests

In Hwange, police officers arrested three (3) at Chinotimba cocktail bar for loitering, not wearing face masks and public drinking. The arrested persons were taken to Hwange central police station where they were released after paying ZWL200 admission of guilt fine.

Six (6) police officers from Cowdry Park police station in Bulawayo have been arrested on allegations of brutally assaulting two (2) women for allegedly breaching national lockdown regulations. The six (6), Tichaona Zariro, Christabel Munyondo, Elizabeth Denhere, Patson Gumoreyi, Zibusiso Masuku and Simbarashe Bvekwa were arrested after they assaulted sisters, Nokuthula and Ntombizodwa Mpofu. The sisters were arrested when they were leaving Pick n Pay supermarket in Cowdray Park on 16 April when a police officer lashed out with a truncheon, damaging Ntombizodwa’s phone. When she pointed out the damage to her phone, the two sisters were handcuffed and repeatedly assaulted with baton sticks. They were allegedly subjected to tribal slurs and sexist comments about their looks before they were locked up only released upon being forced to pay an admission of guilty fine of ZWL 200. The matter has since received the attention of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) which has expressed serious concern over the use of derogatory language which also fuels ethnic hatred.

Summary of violations

The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March 2020 to 7 May 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault225Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera, Beitbridge
Attack on Journalists12Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo
Arrests324Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange
Malicious Damage to Property2Harare, Chitungwiza

Court Update

Six (6) police officers from Cowdry Park police station in Bulawayo have been arrested on allegations of brutally assaulting two (2) women for allegedly breaching national lockdown regulations. The six (6), Tichaona Zariro, Christabel Munyondo, Elizabeth Denhere, Patson Gumoreyi, Zibusiso Masuku and Simbarashe Bvekwa were arrested after they assaulted sisters, Nokuthula and Ntombizodwa Mpofu. They were expected to appear in court on Saturday. However a concern was raised over the non arrest of oue of the police officers who was said to be among those who assaulted the two women, one Superitendent Masimba.

The sisters were arrested when they were leaving Pick n Pay supermarket in Cowdray Park on 16 April when a police officer lashed out with a truncheon, damaging Ntombizodwa’s phone. When she pointed out the damage to her phone, the two sisters were handcuffed and repeatedly assaulted with baton sticks. They were allegedly subjected to tribal slurs and sexist comments about their looks before they were locked up only released upon being forced to pay an admission of guilty fine of ZWL 200.

The matter has since received the attention of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) which has expressed serious concern over the use of derogatory language which also fuels ethnic hatred.

Conclusion

The increasing defiance of the national lockdown by community members following the implementation of level 2 of the lockdown is a cause for concern. The defiance of the lockdown mainly relates to the pursuit of food, water and other basic amenities. The Forum, therefore, calls upon the government to assist vulnerable community members to access subsidised food to lessen the defiance of the lockdown. The Forum castigates the use of food aid for political expediency given the economic effects of the national lockdown on community members, most of whom are informal traders. The Forum further notes the deployment of soldiers to help with the modalities of the lockdown and expects soldiers need to adhere to guidelines on their engagement with civilians, as far as the use of lethal force is concerned.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)