On the last day of January, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who has exposed government corruption and has been arrested three times in the last six months, tweeted a freestyle version of a song that he titled, “Dem Loot.” In a reggae style, Chin’ono – fresh from getting bail after being in remand prison for 20 days, denounced corruption at the highest level of government.
Within a day, over 112k had listened to the amateur song and its title, under the hashtag #DemLoot, was trending in the social media streets of Zimbabwe.
What could have been a moment of fun by Chin’ono turned out to be a trigger for a conversation on the gravity of high-level corruption in Zimbabwe, and how such corruption has resulted in the total collapse of the country’s social service delivery system, notably health, education and public service and infrastructure. The conversations were timeous as the country endured the fourth week of a government-imposed strict lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lockdown, which came in response to the rise in COVID-19 infections, further exposed government’s ill-preparedness to solve, not just the COVID-19 problem, but the entire social and economic rot in the country.
As the numbers of infections swelled, public health institutions, already teetering towards total collapse following years of neglect, were overwhelmed. Government, whose approach has always been military-first, found itself with a well-oiled military machine, and public health institutions that had become death traps. This is the same government, ironically, which arrested Hopewell Chin’ono after he exposed the high-level looting of US$60 million meant for COVID-19 interventions in June 2020.
To date, no-one has been convicted of the brazen looting and public health institution remain incapacitated, and the ordinary citizen is living on luck as some public health centres – as surveyed nationally by ZPP – do not even have basic medication such as Paracetamol pain killer tablets.
So, as Chin’ono capped the month with an amateur song that reminded government of its obligations, it was clear that the events of January had proved that government had not learned from the previous lockdowns as the focus remained not on the critical health and other key social service sectors, but equipping the state security agents to silence citizens in the name of COVID-19 enforcement. They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing from the lockdown initiated in March 2020.
This is evidenced by the dominance of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on the list of human rights violators of the month of January. ZRP accounted for 45.05 per cent of the 271 human rights violations in January, up from 22.61 in December, while the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) contributed to 26.07 per cent of human rights violations, compared to 7.9 per cent last month.
The police and the army are on the frontline of enforcing the lockdown and while doing that, they have harassed, assaulted and illegally detained citizens. ZPP documented 101 cases of harassment, 44 cases of assault, and 19 unlawful arrests, most of which are attributable to the enforcement of the lockdown regulations.
It is on this basis that January was a false start to 2021, a year that was hoped to provide a break from the turmoil of 2020.
Read the full report here (2MB PDF)
Source: Zimbabwe Peace Project