On day 5 of the National Lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 27 March 2020 followed by the gazetting of SI 83 of 2020 Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) on 28 March 2020, the Zimbabwe Humna Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) contiues to monitor the implementation of this declaration. President Emmerson Mnangagwa once again became a culprit of breaking his own law banning public gatherings for the 2nd day in a row when he met some business people in Harare on the 3rd of April 2020. He later addressed the nation on the Lockdown.
On the 5th day of these measures,it also became apparent that economic-related challenges associated with the lockdown have pushed residents in most high-density suburbs back to vending. The increased defiance of the social distancing policy comes at a time when COVID-19 cases continue to rise. According to official statistics by the Ministry of Health and Child Care as at 2 April 2020, positive COVID-19 cases have increased to nine (9) whilst 307 individuals tested negative for COVID-19.
This report encompasses reports covering the 10 provinces of the country through reports received from the following Forum Members:
- Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights)
- Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)
- Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
- Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
- Counselling Services Unit (CSU)
A video which has since gone viral on social media showed members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) destroying vegetables and other agricultural products at Sakubva market in Mutare. It was reported that police officers raided Sakubva market at around 3am with over 300 vegetable vendors fleeing and leaving behind their produce which was later destroyed by ZRP officers. In his address to the business community and in a thinly veiled reference to this incident, the President seems to have allowed vegetable markets to operate.
In Rusitu village in Chimanimani, reports indicated that the village head was forcing community members to carry out the construction of a new clinic without due care of the social distancing policy. It is alleged that the village head addressed community members and told them that the national lockdown was only restricted to large cities. It was also reported that children were also involved in the construction of the clinic as mandated by the village head. In Lupane, community members who wanted to buy food went home empty-handed after they were chased away from Lupane centre by ZRP officers. It was reported that community members who were queueing at Zapalala and Gains Wholesale were dispersed by ZRP officers for not maintaining the recommended social distance. Some of the community members had travelled from Silwane which is more than 30kms away from Lupane centre.
In Harare, police were seen using water cannons to disinfect bus terminals, streets, empty informal markets in Mbare township, as well as the exterior of a block of residential flats. The joint operation in which the Harare city council is providing chemicals and ZRP is providing water canons, is set to be introduced to other cities and towns. The number of people in Mufakose defying the lockdown increased on day 5 of the lockdown. Groups of youths were observed loitering around the streets and sitting at street corners whilst children were running in the streets. Reports received at Samuriwo shopping centre indicated that there were police officers demanding bribes from shop owners to allow them to open their shops beyond the prescribed time.
At Pick and Pay Supermarket in Ruwa, scores of people were gathered outside as they waited for their turn to buy groceries. Of concern was the total disregard for the social distancing policy which is perpetuating the spread of COVID-19 within communities. Apart from community members seeking to buy groceries, the streets in Ruwa were littered with groups of people.
In Chegutu, one of the residents was arrested for recording a video of police officers who were assaulting four (4) pedestrians with baton sticks for allegedly defying the current lockdown by loitering. The arrested person was taken to Chegutu police station where he was charged with Disorderly conduct as prescribed under section 41of the Criminal Law (Codification And Reform) Act. He was detained for 4 hours and later released after paying a fine of 500RTGS dollars.
Four (4) community members who had been looking for mealie meal were assaulted with baton sticks by ZRP officers in Chegutu for allegedly defying the current lockdown by loitering. It was reported that police officers in an unmarked lorry approached the 4 people and started assaulting them without making any enquiries of why they were loitering. The 4 were not arrested though they sustained injuries due to the assault.
Journalist Nunurai Jena who was arrested on 2 April 2020 on charges of disorderly conduct was remanded out of custody on free bail when he appeared in court on 3 April 2020. He was remanded to 7 May 2020.
Summary of Violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented from 30 March 2020 to 3 April 2020.
On day 5 of the lockdown, there was an increase in citizens defying the lockdown to buy food and to access portable water. Citizens are feeling the economic impact of the lockdown as witnessed by the increase in numbers of vendors selling their wares in residential areas. The Forum calls upon the citizens of Zimbabwe to take heed of the call for social distancing to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Forum also calls on the government to:
- Intervene and protect arrested persons by taking note of prescribed social distance measures during transportation and detention.
- Provide law enforcement officers with necessary personal protective clothing as they are not immune to COVID-19.
- Ensure that citizens are provided with basics such as water and food, and that accessibility of these should be within the recommended social distancing policy.
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)