In March 2020 citizens were preoccupied with the Corona Virus Disease of 2019 (COVID-19) which wreaked havoc across the globe with 30,105 deaths being recorded as of 30 March. Zimbabwe, which also recorded a few official cases proved to be ill-prepared to deal with the pandemic. The Wilkins Hospital, which was designated as the main referral centre for COVID-19 cases was not properly equipped to handle cases and had to be closed for renovations. The President, Emmerson Mnangagwa called for a 21 day countrywide Lockdown as a way of controlling the spread of the virus. However, there were no clear measures put in place to ensure every citizen, particularly the less privileged, are able to go through the 21 days without facing survival challenges, especially considering that Zimbabwe’s economy is largely informal and people survive from hand to mouth.
There was general apprehension among members of the society as government appeared to take a laid-back approach in detecting and dealing the COVID-19 cases, leaving citizens without a full understanding of the impact and implications of the disease.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor, Dr. John Mangudya announced that citizens could now transact using the United States Dollar (USD) until further notice. This received mixed reactions from citizens, some of whom believed the bank was taking advantage of COVID-19 to “sneak” back the USD.
During the first few days of the lockdown, there were widespread reports that pointed to harassment and beatings of civilians by state security agents deployed to enforce the lockdown.
Videos and images emerged of police officers beating up people, confirming the fears expressed by the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), and reaffirming the organisation’s position that police and enforcement agents are supposed to conduct themselves in a professional and ethical way, and are supposed to carry out their activities with the respect of human rights in mind.
ZPP recorded a total of 145 human rights violations during the month of March. These included COVID-19 related violations, intimidation and harassment, discrimination, among others. A case of eviction of some family members was reported at Kefalos Company in Seke district, and this was reportedly done as a way of preventing the spread of COVID-19. In Kuwadzana there were reports of police assaulting citizens and some vendors reported they had lost wares during the mayhem. In Mashonaland Central there were reports of some Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) supporters attempting to influence School Development Committee (SDC) selection processes and sideline Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members from occupying positions in the committees. There were also reports of villagers being ordered to contribute towards Independence Day celebrations despite the commemorations having been put on hold. The politics of patronage continued during the month with cases of Zanu PF supporters receiving preferential treatment in aid and other resources distribution being rampant.
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Source: Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)