Government reaction to COVID-19: Implications on Democracy and Human Rights in Zimbabwe

Following the Covid19 outbreak, the government of Zimbabwe created a militarised COVID-19 Taskforce in March 2020 to help fight against the pandemic. Given the history of violence and human rights violations whenever such militarised taskforces have been deployed in Zimbabwean communities, many human rights and democracy erosion questions have arised. The fact that the taskforce is led by a retired general responsible for the military coup in 2017 has sent chills up the spines of many Zimbabwean citizens.

As with other countries, the security forces are not a problem per se. They are doing phenomenal work in many parts of the world as peacemakers in the protection of civilian sites and in response to natural disasters. However, the security forces in Zimbabwe are always not in sync with the public human rights expectations as there is an historic trust deficit between the military and communities. There is no mutual feeling between the security forces and the communities, which stretches back to the colonial period and this has been intensified by decades of militarization of politics during ZANU PF rule.

The covid-19 pandemic has posed serious problems to communities in Zimbabwe, ranging from economic to political. The lockdown resulted in the government militarizing the streets and this has transmogrified into an open door for infringement of human rights and democracy in Zimbabwe. It has been a pitiful experience, with people being made to fight the corona virus and the security sector simultaneously.

Since the lockdown began, there has been a worrying trend of state security brutality in communities who are caught roaming around the streets to make ends meet as this has been a typical livelihood for many Zimbabweans. This has triggered a repeat of the traumatic experience which has become a usual output of many army deployments in communities of Zimbabwe. Interview findings from various parts of Zimbabwe have shown an increase in incidents of police harassment targeting people, with the most affected areas being Harare and Bulawayo which are highly populated.

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Source: Zimbabwe Democracy Institute