The environment was characterised by a wide range of human rights violations in the first quarter of 2020. The human rights situation was marked with the critical constitutional question over the supremacy of the Constitution ushered in by yet a second amendment bill proposing 27 amendments to the current Constitution of Zimbabwe. The quarter was also characterised by tough economic times affecting many households as the prices of goods and services continued to soar out of reach of many. There were outcries from teachers over low salaries and protests from students over their access to education where teachers are poorly remunerated. There were many cases on the harassment and intimidation of communities, assaults and arbitrary arrests mainly perpetrated by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and ZANU-PF supporters, presenting a picture of lack of tolerance for divergent political views as well as impunity. The use of torture on civilians by the ZRP was seen presenting in the first quarter despite numerous calls in 2019 by the Forum and other groups for the ZRP to employ a human rights-based approach in policing.
On health issues, Zimbabwe joined in the global fight against COVID-19 unprepared to handle the pandemic. Health workers called on Government to ensure their safety as they went on strike against unsatisfactory and unsafe working conditions in the face of COVID-19. As at the end of the first quarter, 8 cases of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe were recorded including 1 death due to the dreadful disease. President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a 21-day lockdown on 27 March 2020 commencing on 30 March 2020 and Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 was promulgated on the 28th of March 2020 to give effect to the directive. During this period in the fight against COVID-19, human rights such as the right to health, safe and clean water and access to information were violated. This violation of rights was largely caused by the Government’s lack of preparedness and empathy.
In this report, the Forum urges the following:
- The Government to provide sufficient food and clean and portable water for all as provided in section 77 of the Constitution.
- The Government to ensure that everyone has access to information on COVID-19.
- The state security agents to comply with the procedure laid out in section 4(5)(a) and 4(5)(b) of Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 in handling cases of non-compliance with the lockdown.
- The state security agents to stop using excessive force on civilians and harassing media practitioners.
- The Government to provide adequate protective clothing for all health workers handling COVID-19 cases. The Government to provide testing and treatment centers for COVID-19 in all the 10 Provinces in Zimbabwe.
- The Government to ratify the International Convention against Torture as commitment to ending torture in Zimbabwe in line with international best practices.
- The Government to enact a law in terms of section 210 of the Constitution for the establishment of an Independent Complaints Handling Mechanism for investigating state security agents where there are allegations against them of violating human rights.
- The state security agents to stop arbitrary arrests and abide by the rule of law.
- The Government to preserve the supremacy of the Constitution by stopping all unnecessary amendments to the Constitution.
Download full report here (477KB PDF)
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)