Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report: 10 April 2020 – Day 12

Introduction

On day 12 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 10 April 2020, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to thirteen (13), whilst the number of deaths relating to COVID-19 remained at three (3) deaths. The cumulative tests conducted is 463 of which 450 were negative.

The Forum is concerned with the intractable human rights violations being perpetrated by state security officers. Human rights violations at the hands of soldiers and ZRP officers are becoming more frequent and brutish. Erratic water supplies nationally continue to be a major risk factor for the defiance of self-isolation and social distancing.

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 Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has advised that it will be delivering mealie meal to shops in neighbourhoods nationally. To this effect, GMAZ released a mealie-meal distribution schedule which details when community members should expect mealie meal in their various neighbourhoods. Meanwhile, the government has set up temporary COVID-19 isolation centres in areas such as Nyamandlovu, Gweru, and Chivhu as part of the nationwide response to COVID-19.

At Choppies Supermarket in Gweru, the majority of community members who had queued to buy groceries were forced back home by soldiers who accused them of loitering. Soldiers in Gweru CBD also forced OK supermarket to close at 1 pm instead of closing at 3 pm as stated in the regulations. People who were seen going about their business in the CBD were immediately forced to go home.

At Domboramwari shopping centre in Epworth, vendors were seen conducting their business as usual on roadsides and shop pavements. At midday, over 80 members of an apostolic church sect including children were seen conducting prayers at the foot of Domboramwari kopje. The apostolic church members were not exercising social distance.

At Mbare farmer’s market, scores of people who were trying to buy farm produce were crowded and not maintaining social distance. Farmers and buyers alike were not wearing protective clothing during the interactions. After 1 pm when the farmers market had closed, vendors were seen selling their commodities in the streets adjacent to Mbare farmer’s market. ZRP officers from Matapi police station, later on, dispersed the crowded vendors.

Most shopping centres in Chitungwiza including Zengeza 2, St Mary’s and Makoni shopping centre were crowded with people who wanted to buy groceries and vendors trying to sell their goods. Of major concern is the violation of social distance and the lack of personal protective clothing for vendors and the majority of the community members queuing for goods.

PickNPay in Ruwa was crowded with community members queueing for groceries. Outside the PickNPay complex, youths were sitting in groups drinking alcohol. PickNPay employees were allowing people to come into the shop in groups to avoid congestion. There was a hygiene corner were everyone going into the shop was required to wash their hands. The crowds disappeared when PickNPay supermarket closed, however, the youth groups who were sitting outside the premises continued drinking within the complex until it was dark.

At Chisape business centre in Magunje, there was food aid distribution by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. Social distance and hygiene were not observed as community members were anxious to receive food aid. The queues were crowded and chaotic as people tried to get in front of the queues.

Similarly in Gutu, Mupandawana, there was food aid distribution from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. However, the distribution in Mupandawana was hijacked by ZANU PF members identified as Mai Samatanga and Muzorori. It was reported that community members were requested to chant ZANU PF slogans and only known ruling party supporters benefited from the food aid.

In Mabvuku and Tafara, Kamunhu business centre was crowded with community members who were not observing social distancing. Some of the community members were buying groceries whilst others were selling commodities. Illegal foreign currency dealers were also seen at Total service station near Kamunhu business centre. There was a football match which attracted a huge crowd next to Chizhanje shopping centre. Whilst community boreholes in Magwenzi Street and opposite Nazarene Church were characterised by long crowded queues. These community members were not observing social distancing and were not sanitizing the borehole handle to reduce the chances of spreading COVID-19.

Assaults

In Warren Park 2, soldiers indiscriminately assaulted a man and left him for dead. It was reported that the man was returning home from the nearby shopping centre where he had been buying groceries when an estimated 5 soldiers disembarked an army lorry and attacked the man with booted fists, wooden sticks and sjamboks. The man was not given any warning or explanation relating to the relentless assault.

In Highfields, ZRP officers assaulted two (2) men with baton sticks. It was reported that the first victim was assaulted by two (2) police officers and one (1) soldier acting in concert with one another at around 10:00hrs at his place of residence in Highfields. The victim was surprised to see police officers attacking him with baton sticks without having provoked them or having defied the lockdown. He sustained injuries to his head and received medical assistance from the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, (ZADHR).

The second victim was assaulted as he was getting out of his gate to go to Machipisa shopping centre to buy medication for his wife. It was reported that a soldier flanked by two (2) ZRP officers attacked the victim with a wooden stick without provocation and instructed him to go back into his house as required by the lockdown. The victim sustained injuries to his right hand.

Meanwhile, 25-year old Levison Ncube died on the 7th of April 2020 from injuries he sustained when he was assaulted by Bulawayo Police on the 30th of March 2020. Police are alleged to have used excessive force in apprehending the victim who had been found strolling outside eMabuthweni (Number 2) neighbourhood in Bulawayo. The victim lost consciousness as a result of the beating that he received from the police officer. He was initially taken to a Bulawayo hospital where he regained consciousness and was discharged. Ncube is alleged to have subsequently suffered paralysis of the left side a day after discharge and eventually passed away a week after the assault.

Attack on journalists

Mary Taruvinga journalist with NewZimbabwe.com was reportedly harassed by members of the army and police officers while on her way to work in Harare’s central business district. Taruvinga was asked by two army officers and one police officer where she was going. She told them that she is a journalist and was on her way to her workplace at Causeway Building and duly produced her accreditation card. The officers reportedly insisted that she was not allowed to be in town as part of the COVID-19 lockdown enforcement measures. She was detained by the roadside for more than 30 minutes before the police officers allowed her to continue with her journey to work.

Herald’s Masvingo Correspondent George Maponga was allegedly manhandled by Masvingo Police near Mucheke River Bridge in Masvingo around 2pm. The incident happened when Maponga who was driving towards town was barred from proceeding despite showing his press card.

Arrests

Memory Makumire, a lawyer who stays in Norton was arrested and detained by Norton police on allegations of loitering in contravention of the lockdown regulations. Makumire was allegedly arrested at her gate whilst coming from buying vegetables.

Summary of Violations

The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March 2020 to 8 April 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault126Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya
Attack on Journalists7Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo
Arrests138Masvingo, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton

Court Update

The High Court of Zimbabwe is on Monday the 13th of April 2020 expected to hear the matter which our member the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and Lucia Masvondo of Karoi filed seeking a protective order against the conduct of some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) officers. In the application, it is alleged that on Friday 3 April 2020, the officers assaulted Lucia Masvondo as she was cooking food on an open fire outside her house. The matter has been set down before Justice Owen Tagu.

The High Court is also expected to hear a matter brought before it by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Zimbabwe) seeking an order to interdict the ZRP and other law enforcement agencies responsible for enforcing SI 83 of 2020, COVID-19 national lockdown regulations from interfering and harassing journalists as they carry out their work in covering the lockdown. This comes in the wake of the continued harassment and arrests of journalists ever since the lockdown started. The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.

Truth-telling

In times of crisis, truth-telling is critical in keeping people informed and prepared for the situation. However, as it has occurred in the past, there are allegations that the government continues to deliberately conceal evidence of the extent and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in reference to the concealment of the deaths of the second and third victims whose reports were circulated late by the government. The suppression of the real and accurate figures of infections and deaths exposes more people to infections. The Forum calls on the Ministry of Health and Childcare to improve in information dissemination and tell the truth in the interest of the right to life and health of all Zimbabweans. Withholding information will plunge the country into an abyss which it might not be able to recover from given the country’s weak health institutions and lack of preparedness to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

Conclusion

Cases of the partisan distribution of food aid are on the rise. This is extremely regrettable given the nationwide scarcity of mealie meal and the continuous rise in prices. particularly The increasing defiance of the COVID-19 lockdown by community members is a great concern. The insensate attacks on journalists during the discharge of their duties is an urgent issue that requires government intervention.

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 also calls on the government: To raise awareness on COVID-19 to curb defiance of the lockdown; To protect journalists and other essential services from harassment and attacks when discharging their duties; To intervene and investigate reported cases of partisan distribution of food aid.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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