Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report 21-22 July 2020 – Days 113-114

Introduction                                                                                  
This report covers two days, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 July 2020 which marked days 113 and 114 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and has been in place since 30 March 2020 respectively. By Wednesday 22 July 2020 confirmed COVID-19 cases had increased to two thousand and thirty-four (2 034). Of concern are the increasing numbers of local transmissions which now account for one thousand and forty-six (1 046). The number of cumulative tests done stood at one hundred and thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight (107 788). The death toll remained at twenty-six (26).

Methodology
Information contained in this report is derived from the following Forum Members:

  • Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)
  • Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
  • Counselling Services Unit (CSU)
  • Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR)
  • Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights)

Presidential Address   
On 21 July, President Mnangagwa addressed the nation on new lockdown restrictions. The President justified the measures on the basis of the increasing numbers in confirmed COVID-19 cases nationally and the rising death toll. The new lockdown restrictions as presented by President Mnangagwa include:

  • All non-working population to stay at home;
  • All businesses to operate from 8am – 3pm with the exception of providers of essential services;
  • Curfew to be imposed from dusk to dawn 6pm -6am. Only essential services exempt;
  • Registered SMEs to operate but observing strict health guidelines;
  • Food markets to remain open;
  • Inter-city travel remains banned. Only approved buses are allowed to move around;
  • Gatherings remain banned and funerals remain curtailed;
  • Anyone who knowingly infects other people by breaching health guidelines will be liable to criminal prosecution;
  • Where travel is essential, full requirements and regulations must be followed. Wearing masks, hygiene and distancing. Social distancing.
  • Criminalisation of act of absconding from quarantine centres.

The President further advised that the lockdown measures would be eased once the prevailing COVID-19 situation has improved. Following the President’s address, Statutory Instrument 174 of 2020, Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (Amendment) Order, 2020 (No. 14) was gazetted to bring into effect the changes announced by the President. According to SI 174 of 2020, the following businesses should close at 3pm:

  • Writing of exams
  • Fuel outlets
  • Restaurants
  • Hunting Safaris
  • Banks, bureaux de changes
  • Courts of law
  • Parliamentary Committees
  • Supermarkets
  • vegetable markets
  • Commercial and manufacturing enterprises

Highlights
President Mnangagwa has admitted that the country lacks the capacity to fight the COVID-19 pandemic due to its poor health systems. Receiving a donation for Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) from the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) at State House in Harare, the President said Zimbabwe has both a fragile economy and health system which hinder authorities from effectively fighting the global health calamity. The President further expressed gratitude to the DBSA for donating PPEs which he said the country has been struggling to supply to the frontline workers.  

The Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has suspended hearings with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development officials on the Financial Adjustments Bill, for four weeks because of COVID-19. The Secretary for Finance and Economic Development Mr George Guvamatanga was supposed to appear before the committee to give evidence on the Bill, however, the hearing was postponed due to the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases. Zvishavane District Hospital has suspended admissions and other health care services after 25 workers, most of them being nurses and three officials from the District Registrar’s Office attached to the institution, tested positive to COVID-19. The results for the hospital indicated that 25 out of 28 health care workers tested positive. Three staffers from the district registrar’s office also tested positive.

Some universities are postponing their end of semester examinations as a precaution against the spike in local COVID-19 cases with most allowing students already present to finish writing, but are postponing exams for classes that are not on campus. Great Zimbabwe University has since informed students of the postponement in a statement by registrar Ms Sinikiwe Gwatidzo which gave students 24 hours to return to their homes. The University of Zimbabwe through the Registrar Dr Noah Mutongoreni also advised that examinations scheduled for dates beyond July 26 have been postponed. Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Permanent Secretary Proffessor Fanuel Tagwira explained that those who were already writing will finish their papers, however, those who have not started their examinations have been postponed.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Mr Enoch Dongo reported that about 200 health workers have tested positive to COVID-19, forcing some hospitals to shut down. According to Mr Dongo, the majority of health workers hit by the virus are student nurses who have been thrown to the deep end to run public hospitals in the absence of qualified nurses who have been on strike for the past 34 days demanding US dollar  salaries, better working conditions and adequate protective clothing. This comes as the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) wrote to health acting permanent secretary Gibson Mhlanga expressing concern over the growing number of healthcare workers contracting the virulent disease at their workplaces.

Attacks on Journalists    
TellZim journalist Upenyu Chaota was harassed intimidated and threatened by police officers manning a checkpoint in Masvingo. It is alleged that the police officers requested Mr Chaota to go back home as journalists are not essential services. The journalist was then detained for an hour and forced to sit on the ground despite producing his media accreditation card. Chaota was later released without any charges being levelled against him. The actions of the police are contrary to and in contempt of an order given by Harare High Court’s Justice Jacob Manzunzu who on 20 April 2020 ordered the police and other law enforcement agencies charged with enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown not to arrest, detain or interfere “in any unnecessary way” with the work of journalists as they are considered an essential service provider.

Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 22 July 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault280Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera, Beitbridge, Domboshava, Wengezi
Attack on Journalists25Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge
Arrests502Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange, Murwi, Kwekwe, Chinhoyi
Abductions4Harare
Gunshots2Chitungwiza, Bulawayo

Conclusion
The Forum remains gravely concerned by the number of confirmed COVID-19 local transmissions. This comes at the backdrop of consistent defiance of the lockdown regulations by citizens and increased escapes from quarantine centres. Though the Forum welcomes the new lockdown regulations particularly noting their importance in curbing the pandemic, the Forum reminds the government human rights for all should still be observed during the lockdown. The Forum further notes the increasing attacks against journalists and media practitioners by State security agents, the Forum calls upon the respect for media freedoms.  

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)