Tyranny ‘masked’ as COVID-19 enforcement: ZPP Monthly Monitoring Report May 2020

Executive Summary

On 23 May 2020, Paul Munakopa of Bulawayo died in circumstances that could have well been avoided. The 34-year-old was a victim of the police’s heavy-handedness. He was shot during a car chase, and the police who shot him were using an unmarked vehicle in an operation that they are yet to reveal.

This is just one of the incidences that speak to the continued rise in cases of human rights abuses perpetrated by state security agents.

For the second time in the year, the police and army topped the list of perpetrators of human rights violations. Overall, the police contributed to 41.21 percent of the human rights violations, while the army contributed to 22.26 percent of the violations.

The state security agents have been on the frontline of enforcing the lockdown imposed since March 30th.

It is in the same period, starting April, that the country grappled with the economic and social effects of the COVID19 pandemic.

It has become apparent that COVID19 is not just a health matter, but touches on economic, political, social and human rights aspects of people.

This explains why by the end of May, police had arrested over 40,000 people for defying lockdown regulations; mostly in an effort to conduct economic activities to earn an income.

ZPP recorded cases of arrested citizens not being taken through the formal arrest procedure, but enduring harassment, intimidation and assault at the hands of law enforcement. Victims told horror stories of their experiences at the hands of law enforcement agents. This makes arrests in Zimbabwe a human rights issue.

ZPP recorded 110 cases of harassment and intimidation, (the majority of which are attributed to the state security agents), 13 cases of unlawful detention, 40 cases of assault and sadly, two extra judicial killings.

One of the major cases is that of an illegal miner who was shot in the head by a security guard in Shamva on 15 May 2020.

During the month of May, Harare recorded 100 cases of violations, the highest in the country, followed by Mashonaland East with 41 cases.

Attention was drawn to the efforts of two Bulawayo sisters, Nokuthula and Ntombizodwa Mpofu, to get justice after being arbitrarily arrested and assaulted by police. Police released the women following the intervention of civil society organisations and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission. The six offending officers were subsequently arrested and have appeared in court.

A Bulawayo resident, Levison Ncube died as a result of injuries sustained after he was brutally assaulted by police officers for violating lockdown regulations on the first day of the lockdown. Ncube’s family, with the assistance of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, has indicated that they intend to sue the state for the death of Levison.

The family of Munakopa mentioned earlier has written to the police requesting an independent inquiry into the shooting that led to Paul’s death.

It must be noted that pressure from victims, citizens and civil society organizations is essential in the promotion and protection of human rights as well as the seeking of justice.

The report focuses on how the State continues to perpetrate human rights violations during the COVID-19 crisis.

The COVID-19 induced national lockdown has exacerbated the pre-existing food insecurity. Although the Zimbabwean economy is highly informal, the sector has been excluded from essential services thereby increasing the vulnerability of citizens.

The distribution of aid continued to be largely partisan and discriminatory, with Mashonaland East recording the highest food and other aid violations at 42.57 percent followed by Manicaland at 28.86 percent. (See page 5)

This report highlights some of the cases of discrimination on food aid and provides an insight into the government aid that was either grossly insufficient or did not reach the deserving beneficiaries. It also looks at the discrepancies in government responses to COVID-19 and how these are impact on human rights in Zimbabwe.

This month was also marked by an increased number of Zimbabweans returning from other countries. Government’s unpreparedness to handle the returnees was exposed as some of them escaped quarantine centres. The deplorable state of quarantine centres, and inadequate testing kits came under the spotlight.

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Source: Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)