Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 67 – WCoZ Covid-19 Situation Report

67 days into the lockdown, and as at the 3rd of June 2020, 16 new COVID-19 positive cases were recorded, bringing the total number to 222.

In spite of the triple rate increase in the rate of infection in Zimbabwe, we remain concerned that the Government is almost 1 week past the deadline to undertake a public review of the indefinite lockdown.

This is poor state practice and is not a demonstration of the highest standards of good governance by Government. This is a global pandemic. The Government must do better.

According to reports, at least 94 travellers using illegal entry points into Zimbabwe, have been arrested since the lockdown. We also note that Government has announced intensifying security by; deploying increased security personnel at borders and ports of entry, purchasing drones and, development of border roads. While we applaud this move, particularly given the sharp increase in positive cases, mostly recorded from returnees, we continue to reiterate the imperative need to protect and respect every citizens’ constitutional rights and not overly securitise the response to COVID-19.

We commend the resumption of the Parliament of Zimbabwe and in particular the vigorous and commented engagement in undertaking the oversight responsibilities held by Members of Parliament and respective portfolio committees. We also commend clear and cohesive articulation of citizen’s perspectives and recommendations on the National COVID-19 response and proposals by Government emanating from Parliament.

We urge the Government to heed the calls being made by legislature.

The remind the Government, in particular the Executive branch of the State, that addressing national crises such COVID-19 pandemic without facilitating and giving key national institutions such as the Judiciary, the Parliament, and the Chapter 12 Institutions, the space to undertake their responsibilities services to fundamentally weaken the capacity of the nation to meet shared goals and to do so, whilst upholding and protecting the Constitution, which encapsulates collectively agreed shared principles and values.

Critical Emerging Issues

1. Food shortages and diminishing food aid programs

We continue to record food shortages around the country, with most reports showing dwindling of Food Aid Programmes by Government. Reports from Bindura, Chivi, Guruve indicate that the situation on food continue to deteriorate as communities can no longer afford to buy basic commodities such as cooking oil and mealie meal.

Concerned further with escalating prices of bread and other basic food commodities which have led to negative coping behaviours in households and communities.

This comes at a time when Government is yet to disburse its ZWL$300 food grant per household, while on the other hand the cost of living sky-rockets.

We note that measures put in place by Government as relief to vulnerable households are piecemeal and out of touch with reality.

  • We recommend the open and accountable explanation of the status of COVID-19 related social protection grants including but not limited to the:

I. cash transfer program to vulnerable households,
II. support program for the creative industries,
III. relief program for the youth,
IV. food aid program to urban communities,
V. support program for those made vulnerable by COVID-19 Lockdown,
VI. program for Orphan and Vulnerable Children

  • We recommend that the Ministry of Social Welfare urgently conducts a needs assessment of communities at grassroots level and develop comprehensive strategies to alleviate economic shocks from vulnerable households.
    We remind Government through its relevant ministries that lack of public and proactive transparency on these matters is not in the best interest of the country and most importantly deprived the overly taxed indigent citizens of Zimbabwe.

2. Parliament on schools re-opening

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary Education today presented its report on school’s re-opening.

We commend the extensive work, engagement and responsiveness of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary Education.

We support the position taken by the Committee that it does not recommend the resumption of the education sector. We highlight the concerns raised by the Committee over the safety measures, and submitted that children should not be used as experiments. Thus reiterating the calls, we have been making on enhancing the safety protocols, which includes:

  • The sanitization and maintenance of hygiene within centres of learning
  • The provision of masks to be used by teachers and pupils
  • The adherence to social and physical distancing protocols
  • The decongestion of schools
  • Testing of pupils, teachers and other staff members
  • Early COVID-19 detection measures and early warning systems within the school community

We are gravely concerned by engagements and messaging from the highest levels of Government that indicates that individual households and families facing incredible strain will be once again asked to shoulder the burden of preparedness and readiness to fight COVID-19 in particular, the costs regarding securing hygiene, sanitization and testing services for the resumption of education sector.

  • We urge Government to take heed of the national call on the matter of resumption of the education sector and resist the temptation to push citizens into high risk programs without adequate protection of lives.

3. Mandatory Quarantine and Isolation Centres

We highlight the progressive decision handed down by the High Court regarding to the conditions in the Mandatory quarantine and isolation centres. The number of returnees, including women and children, travelling back to Zimbabwe and proceeding to mandatory quarantine centres continue to grow.

Concerned with the risks and vulnerabilities faced by such women, children, persons living with disabilities held in quarantine;

  • We call upon the Government to demonstrate its commitment to good governance practices and adhere to the High Court ruling on this matter.

We continue to urge Government to comply with the order by the High Court, and among other measures, enhance the provision of:

  • Access to applicable and supportive ameliorative services for women, the elderly, children, and persons living with disabilities in quarantine.
  • Appropriate and adequate provision of water and sanitization.
  • Applicable safety and security measures in place at centres to address the complex blend of returning residents and deportees of various classes.
  • Access to services, including adequate sexual and reproductive health services, to both men and women without stigma.

Outstanding issue

Restrictions in movement by the security agents

We continue to witness restrictions on citizens’ movement by the Police and army. This has been noted particularly in Shurugwi, Kwekwe, Chipinge and Harare. In other instances, it has been reported that most travellers were turned away and barred from entering the Harare Central Business District.

We note the distortion of the definition of essential service through the methods of enforcement wherein person who are stated in the regulations as defined and protected as essential service continue to be harassed by enforcement officers.

  • We call for urgent clarification of what is essential services as several persons protected by the definition of essential services under COVID-19 regulations were removed from public transport and turned away from the Harare Central Business District.
  • We call for an official position on movement, travel permits and essential services, as we have noted growing inconsistences in the last 3 days.
  • We further call upon the enforcing agents to exercise restraint and avoid unleashing terror and violence upon communities, under the guise of enforcing lockdown.

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)