Lockdown: ZLHR raises alarm on human rights violations

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has noted that human rights violations have continued under the current Covid-19 induced national lockdown and appealed to the government to respect people’s fundamental rights.

The government re-introduced stiff lockdown measures including bringing back the dusk to dawn curfew following a sharp increase in Covid-19 infections and deaths.

To date, the country has recorded 27 892 cases, 17 372 recovery cases and 773 deaths.

Last year a number of human rights abuse cases were reported including the alleged brutal assault of two sisters from Cowdray Park suburb in Bulawayo by police officers and 49-year-old Emmanuel Mavunge from Nkulumane suburb who was allegedly shot by police officers among other cases.

The latest lockdown order heightened fears that the law enforcement agents were again going to crack down on civilians.

In an interview with CITE, ZLHR spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda said they are seeing a replay of the 2020 lockdown situation as human rights defenders continue to be persecuted and prosecuted.

“We are seeing a replay of the worrying human rights violations in 2021 in the sense that as you have noted during the repossession of the lockdown in 2020, we saw the prosecution and the persecution of ordinary citizens and human rights defenders,” said Mafunda.

“And shockingly this prosecution and persecution is continuing during this two- or three-week national lockdown, we have seen the issues to do with the arrest and persecution of Advocate Mahere, arrest and prosecution of Honourable Job Sikhala, arrest and prosecution of freelance Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.”

Mafunda added: “We have seen the case which happened in Bulawayo, of a resident in Bulawayo who was also assaulted and alerted the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and I am told he made a report with the police, isn’t it the case with what was happening in 2020 and we are seeing this happening again. The targeting of people for freely expressing themselves on social media, we are seeing something like this again happening.”

Mafunda said although they have not done a monthly report to capture all human rights abuse cases during this lockdown period, the three are the outstanding ones so far.

“The ones that I have highlighted are the ones that are significant or outstanding. We have not yet collected a whole number because we normally do that through our monthly report and the month of January is still midway but the cases that I have highlighted are the cases that ZLHR are requested and those three are the ones that are outstanding where our emergence legal service support have been offered to those human rights defenders,” he said.

He appealed to the government to enforce the lockdown while respecting people’s dignity, freedom and rights.

“Our request is simple for the government to respect people’s fundamental rights and enforce the national lockdown with respect to human dignity, people’s freedom and rights thus our appeal. We are appealing to the government to enforce the national lockdown while respecting people’s fundamental rights across the country,” said Mafunda.

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)