Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 41 – WCoZ Covid-19 Situation Report

41 Days into the lockdown and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare reported that as at 8 May 2020, they have conducted 10 218 rapid screening tests and 8 741 PCR tests. On 7 May alone, the Ministry reports that they conducted 624 rapid screening tests, and 600 PCR tests, in the private and public institutions. Statistics show that a new COVID-19 case was confirmed in Harare yesterday. Therefore, to date a total of 35 cases have confirmed as COVID-19 positive. We continue to urge the Ministry to improve on timeously publishing the daily updates.

We wish to bring to the fore, the correlation between Gender and socio-economic rights during the COVID-19 pandemic, as demonstrated by our grassroots reports. We continue to note throughout the country, challenges which women face concerning restrictions in the enjoyment of their socio-economic, civil rights during COVID-19. Rights that have been continuously under threat, include the rights personal security, human dignity, water and food. Water accessibility, food and a clean environment are fundamental human rights which universally determine, on a daily basis, the quality of women’s lives.

Therefore, we raise concern that when the State fails to adequately provide for the respect and fulfilment of these rights, women’s lives are left vulnerable and exposed to abuse. We have noted that women in most communities are compelled by circumstances to stand in water queues as late as between 9 pm and midnight. Particularly in communities which are heavily reliant on water bowsers deliveries such as Cowdray Park, Bulawayo. Reports have also indicated that the lack of satisfactory community food distribution models which support door to door access of food, has exacerbated the level of violence against women.

Therefore, we bring the issue of violence against women to the fore and attention of the Nation at large, Government and the Independent Commissions. Further, we remind the Government of its Constitutional mandate to implement comprehensive strategies which holistically address the poor level of access and enjoyment of such rights by women across the country.

Critical Emerging Issues

1. Basic commodity scarcity

We are concerned with reports from our networks, indicating scarcity of basic commodities such as sugar cooking oil, flour and green bar soap. This has been noted by our networks in Gweru Urban and other areas in Harare.

Recognising that this situation has exacerbated the level of food insecurity and hunger within already distressed households, and gravely concerned that women are the most vulnerable on all dimensions of food security;

Aware that Government, a few weeks ago announced a price freeze on all basic commodities;

  • We question the success of such interventions when the general public can no longer access the commodities, to begin with.
  • We further urge the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to investigate these concerns and establish strategies to ensure that basic commodities remain accessible to all.

2. Protecting and supporting adolescent girls

Aware that COVID-19 has resulted in the unprecedented disruption in educational sector, not only in Zimbabwe, but the world over.

Further aware that children will spend most of their time at home and in communities, due to the indefinite closure of schools.

We continue to warn on the high probability of adolescent girls’ exposure to sexual exploitation, and child marriages. In mitigating these risks, and developing early warning systems, we recommend the following:

  • Government agencies, Ministry of Health and Child Care, the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit (VFU), Social Welfare Department, and civil society organisations to prioritise awareness raising and support services on protecting adolescent girls,
  • Government to create and facilitate stronger solid community base for the welfare and protection of children, particularly adolescent girls, during emergency situations and recovery planning.
  • The Government should provide toll-free numbers for survivors to call and report cases and not persistently rely on the support of developing partners for this role.

3. Resumption of Education sector

Understanding that in an attempt to curb the spread of the pandemic, authorities responded swiftly by temporarily shutting down, for an indefinite period, schools and tertiary institutions;

Further, emphasizing on the need to ensure that learners do not lag behind from their studies, and at the same time ensuring safety of learners;

  • We urge Government to be responsive to the in depth multi-sectoral proposals placed before it and build the necessary confidence in the public, on its the ability to effectively guide the fragile sector through the COViD-19 re-opening processes. We support calls for the following:
    • Rolling back of Examination classes to later than July 2020 to November 2020 .
    • Comprehensive decongestion program for the sector to de-congest schools including specific measures for mass schools.
    • Appropriate, reasonable and supported distance learning measures.
    • Identification and remedial actions for infrastructural support to schools that have poor to non-existent access to water and sanitation.
    • Specific measures for Early Child Development Classes.
    • Install critical hygiene and prevention measures in schooling facilities prior to opening up of schools and not unnecessarily place learners, teachers and school workers at risk.

4. Arbitrary arrests of women

Deeply distressed at the random detention and arrest of women, for loitering,

Concerned that, women, are arbitrarily being arrested for “loitering” in public spaces such as pharmacies and supermarkets,

Deeply concerned further that this constitutes a direct violation of women’s rights by enforcements agents who are wielding a phenomenally unchecked discretion in enforcing COVID-19 measures,

Distressed that the level of discretion, is so broad that it unduly places women at risk of abuse and malpractices by enforcing agents;

  • We reiterate that until Section 210 of the Constitution is effected, to establish an independent Complaint Mechanism, the avenues for women to come forward and lodge complaints about violations their rights at the hands of law enforcement agents, remain so significantly constrained and render them grossly inadequate.
  • We call upon Parliament of Zimbabwe to facilitate the expedition

5. Rights of Returning Residents and Deportees

Commending the level of readiness displayed in receiving and accommodating over 1 525 Zimbabwean deportees from South Africa, and returning residents to date into mandatory quarantine.

Commending the provincial level of preparedness of quarantine centres across the country to receive both returning residents and deportees.

We remind both the Government of Zimbabwe that both returning residents and deportees have rights protected by the Constitution of Zimbabwean and that as Zimbabweans they are entitled to equal protection and equal benefit of the law.

  • We urge Government to respect of the rights of quarantined persons.
  • We call upon Government to publicise the report on the persons quarantined and released from mandatory quarantine persons and account for all persons in their custody.

We continue to draw special attention delays in releasing quarantined persons, at the lapse of the quarantine period. We refer to the case of Mr Nyasha Cannaan Chigunduru, whose wife was detained at United College of Education, which is a mandatory quarantine centre. His wife had entered quarantine initially at Plumtree High School on April 5, 2020 which was supposed to last 21 days. The last day of quarantine was due to be the 7th of May 2020. Mr Chigunduru received no official communication on her status and whereabouts.

This SITREP is developed by and through, the collective network of organisational and individual members of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, who are engaged at community levels to national levels in the COVID19 Zimbabwe response.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)