Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report: 7 April 2020 – Day 9

On day 9 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 Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) continued to monitor the implementation of this declaration. According to official statistics by the Ministry of Health and Child Care as at 7 April 2020, the number of confirmed cases increased from nine (9) to eleven (11) confirmed cases of COVID-19, including two (2) deaths. As noted by the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, (ZADHR) in their press statement dated 7 April 2020, the government only advised of the death of a second individual 4 days after the incident. ZADHR further noted that it took 5 days (from 2nd April to 7 th April) to get the result of the tests for COVID-19 of the second individual who succumbed to the pandemic.

It has been noted with concern that the government is not being transparent and forthcoming with information relating to COVID-19. The government withheld information relating to the death of a second victim for 3 days from 4 April to 7 April. This causes citizens to mistrust the government.

Methodology

This report encompasses reports covering the 10 provinces of the country through reports received from the following Forum Members: Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP); Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA); Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR); Counselling Services Unit (CSU); Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, (ZADHR); Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights)

General Atmosphere

The continuous defiance of the lockdown has drastically increased with vendors selling their wares at shopping centres and streets. Persistent water problems in most high-density suburbs throughout Zimbabwe continue to be a major risk factor for community members as they are forced to endure long queues at community boreholes. On 3 April, President Mnangagwa reclassified all produce markets as essential services and directed that farmers should be allowed to deliver their vegetables to the markets. This saw the operationalisation of farmers markets nationally including Mbare Musika.

In Mkoba 18 in Gweru, there were large queues at Hove shopping centre of people who were buying food, particularly mealie meal. Vendors were also seen selling their commodities on the pavements. Of concern was the disregard of the social distancing policy on the queues. In Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Municipality of Chitungwiza vehicles were seen patrolling the streets in St Mary’s, Zengeza 2, Makoni and Unit J. The law enforcement officers were neither wearing protective clothing nor observing social distancing.

In Harare, there was a hive of activity at Mbare Musika were vendors were selling their commodities with total disregard of the social distancing policy. Though Mbare Musika was only allowed to operate between 6am to 10am, people were still operating as normal as late as 3pm. It is worrying to note that ZRP and municipal police who were seen patrolling Mbare Musika had no personal protective clothing. It was also reported that police officers had started conducting evening patrols in areas such as Stodart and Arbennie.

In Epworth, informal traders and illegal foreign currency dealers were seen going about their business at Overspill shopping centre, Domboramwari shopping centre and Munyuki shopping centre.

At OK supermarket Machipisa in Highfields, people were seen cramped up in queues without taking notice of the social distancing policy. Similar queues were witnessed at OK Ardbennie, PicknPay Msasa, and Choppies Sunningdale were people were queueing for mealie meal. At Spar Queensdale, queues were also seen as people were trying to buy groceries. In Sunningdale, municipality police and ZRP officers were controlling the queues to maintain order though they disregarded the required social distance. The law enforcement officers were also not wearing protective clothing.

In Mutuko, at Mutoko Centre it was business as usual with vendors selling vegetables and other commodities to passing motorists and community members. Bottle stores were open with patrons not exercising social distancing. No police patrols were seen in the area. In Luveve in Bulawayo, there was chaos at TM supermarket as people were jostling for mealie meal. It was reported that the situation became more chaotic when police officers came to control the queue as people retaliated to the actions of the police officers particularly giving priority to people who had bribed them.

Assaults

There were reports received that soldiers assaulted community members with sjamboks in Chitungwiza at C junction up to St Aidan Primary School. It was reported that the people were loitering and selling their wares thereby defying the national lockdown. Soldiers jumped out of a military truck and indiscriminately assaulted people chasing them away from the streets. Nine (9) people sustained injuries of various degrees as a result of the assault.

Summary of Violations

The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March 2020 to 7 April 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault84Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza
Attack on Journalists4Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi,
Harare
Arrests118Masvingo, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare

Court Update

In Mutare, Justice Mwayera of the Mutare High Court ordered the City of Mutare to publish a revised water rationing schedule for the supply of clean and portable tap water to residents of Mutare, following a court application field by Ephraim Matanda and United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust. The applicants were seeking an order compelling the City of Mutare to provide safe, portable and adequate water to the residents during the period of the lockdown. The Court ordered that the schedule be published in the Manica Post on 10 April 2020. More judgments are expected from Masvingo and Bulawayo in which residents are also seeking orders to compel municipalities, councils and central government to provide water during the subsistence of the national lockdown period and afterwards to help slow down the spread of the coronavirus in Zimbabwe.

Gender Implications

The national lockdown has brought with it gender-related human rights violations in Zimbabwe. The government should, therefore, be mindful of gender considerations in the enforcement of the lockdown. The following gender-related issues emanating from the lockdown have been observed: The raid on the Sakubva vegetable market in Mutare on 3 April and the ensuing destruction of the loot worsened the plight of vulnerable groups such as vendors in general, and women vendors in particular who constitute the greater population of this marginalised and exploited groups; The use of violence by the security forces in enforcing the lockdown has greatly affected women such that 3 female newspaper vendors were arrested and harassed in Masvingo whilst a woman from Chinhoyi was assaulted by soldiers at her home before police dogs were set on her as she tried to flee from the soldiers; The erratic supply of running water which is a concern in most of the cities of Zimbabwe is a risk factor for women during the lockdown. In most cases, women bear the burden of fetching water from public boreholes and wells, this exposes women and girls to violence, victimisation and exposes them to COVID-19 the social distance policy is usually not adhered to in these circumstances.

Conclusion

The government’s lack of transparency on issues relating to cases of the COVID-19 is causing anxiety among the citizens. The Forum continues to call upon the citizens of Zimbabwe to take heed of the importance of social distancing as a measure to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Forum calls on local authorities in cities and towns to respect court judgments relating to the provision of potable water. The Forum also implores the government and civil society as a whole to take proactive steps to provide refuge for women who may be subjected to domestic abuse in their homes during this lockdown period.

The Forum also calls on the government: To be transparent in disseminating information relating to cases of COVID-19; To ensure that cities and town municipalities comply with court orders relating to the provision of potable water; To provide traders at markets with protective clothing and ensure that they abide by COVID measures such as social distance and hygiene; To implement a clear, transparent and public case management system to inform citizens of the developments relating to new cases and deaths resulting from COVID-19.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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