Zimbabwe entered the Easter Weekend with the 12th Day of Lockdown which saw a marked number of activities from the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on COVID-19.

Commending the significant contributions being made by the private sector at National, Provincial and Local Levels throughout the country in response to the call to support the COVID 19 National Response Plan.

Acknowledging the contributions of communities and partnerships with Civil Society Organisations across Zimbabwe, who have joined citizen’s shoulder-to-the-wheel to stop the spread of COVID-19 and provide ameliorative measures to the hardships inflicted by the Lockdown.

We continue to salute the thousands of healthcare professionals who have continued to provide support and services to citizens whilst facing significant risks, and have remained our main battle force against COVID-19.

Applauding the implementation of 2 Tier Hotline system with Government dedicating 2019 to clinical matters and reports relating to COVID-19 and a National Hotline to service Non-Clinical matters such as social support, other COVID 19 enquiries;

It is in this spirit, the numerous commitments and legal obligations by the Government that we anticipate the imminent announcement of the National Gender Based Violence Response Hotline.

Critical Issues

As of the 10th of April 2020 we continue to highlight the following critical issues;

1. No to the Deployment of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces

  • We call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to exercise restraint and desist from the temptation to deploy the Zimbabwe Defence Forces as part of the enforcement system of the COVID-19 measures.
  • In light of the challenges in and outstanding issues in ensuring that our armed forces are able to undertake their duties with due regard to the respect of Human rights and protection of the lives of citizens and women in particular, we are gravely concerned about the deployment of Defence Forces against citizens.

2. Deployment of the Zimbabwe Police Service

We call upon the Government of Zimbabwe, which had taken measures to re-train the Zimbabwe Republic Police provide the necessary support and guidance to the Police to undertake their appropriate role in the fight against COVID-19.

  • We urge the Zimbabwe Republic Police to take cognisance of their national and global platform as they execute their mandate, to demonstrate their capacity and skill in exercising their duties whilst adhering to the highest standards of professionalism, and respect for the Zimbabwe Constitution and the rights therein enshrined.
  • We urge the deployment of the Police to provide services to communities to support enforcing social distancing at community water points, food markets and food queues.
  • We remind the Police that they too must adhere to social distancing and sanitisation protocols whilst on duty as they themselves are not immune from infection or from spreading the virus to communities, their colleagues or other essential services personnel.
  • We also draw the attention of the Zimbabwe Republic Police to the vulnerabilities that women, pregnant women, the elderly and persons living with disabilities face in seeking to exercise their rights to access food in such circumstances. We therefore remind the Police of their responsibilities to provide protective policing measures during the supervision of such quest to protect the rights of the vulnerable.

3. Lockdown under threat

Noting reports that have been received from our national networks indicating the growing disregarding of lockdown measures and social distancing across the country and particularly in areas such as Zengeza 2, Nketa 6, Sam Levy Village Borrowdale, Mabvuku and Kwekwe. Concerned that such actions may erode the lockdown gains recorded so far in the last 11 days to date.

Concerned further at the approach of government to relax enforcement of lockdown by reducing controls on motor traffic, person in the Central Business Districts of various town across the country including but not limited to Masvingo, Beitbridge, Victoria Falls, Harare, Chitungwiza, Gweru, Chegutu and Bulawayo;

  • We remind the nation that each one of us has a role to play in stopping the further spread of COVID 19, and hence we must all cooperate in upholding the containment measures put in place.
  • In the same vein, we urge Government, particularly, to increase their messaging and communication on the importance of respecting the lockdown especially as we are faced with a Easter Weekend which is a period traditional of families getting together and travel between communities and raises the risk of persons seeking to engage in activities that would undermine the lock down provisions.
  • We further call upon law enforcement agents, to effectively enforce the lockdown and ensure that citizens do not breach containment measures put in place.
  • We call upon Government to expedite decentralization of COVID-19 testing, to other provinces and districts through-out the country.

4. Enforcement of Social Distancing in Food Queues by Police

Deeply concerned that the Zimbabwe Republic Police seem to abdicate their responsibilities to enforce social distancing in food queues. We recognise that the difficulties in accessing food have made mealie meal and other food supplies scarce. The police have a responsibility to man queues and enforce social distancing during the queue process and ensure that citizens are able to access food whilst meeting the lockdown protocols.

The inability to see a definitive positive and progressive policing stance in this regard gives the impression that the state has left citizens to their own ends whilst ignoring the realities that citizens are being placed in such a difficult position by the very lockdown imposed by government;

  • We make specific reference to food queues in Chitungiwiza, Victoria Falls and Bulawayo as direct incidence of the above
  • We also draw the attention of the Police to the disadvantages that women, pregnant women, the elderly and persons living with disabilities face in seeking to exercise their rights to access food in such circumstances and remind the police of their responsibilities to provide protective policing measures during the supervision of such queues to protect the rights of the vulnerable members of the Zimbabwean society.
  • We urge decision makers to bear in mind that whilst the can enact policies for stopping the spread of the COVID-19 they need to consider that can they enact policies that citizens can follow. The government must continue to adjust their policies so that they best secure the cooperation of citizens to ensure that the policies are met.

5. Respect of Human Rights by the Zimbabwe Republic Police

Whilst we call upon the Zimbabwe Republic Police to play their appropriate roles in enforcing the COVID 19 lockdown, We remind them of their obligation to respect the protection of human rights and in particular women’s human rights as they enforce the lockdown.

  • We further call upon the Parliamentarians and constitution Chapter 12 Commissions to remain vigilant to their respective oversight responsibilities during this time and ensure that all actions taken by the state during this period must be fully accounted for.
  • We call upon police to police sensibly and with citizen consent as opposed to resorting to policing mechanisms that are unlawful and violate the fundamental rights of the citizens they ought to protect.
  • Further, we call upon all security services to respect social distancing and sanitisation protocols whilst on duty as they themselves are not immune from infection or from spreading the virus to communities, their families and colleagues.

Outstanding Issues

We continue to call the attention of Government and stakeholders, to the following critical issues previously raised;

1. Transparency and testing of travellers from High-Risk Countries

Calling upon Government to urgently build confidence in the COVID-19 prevention measures by reporting on the extent of the monitoring of the over 13 000 persons who had recently travelled to high risk places and, in particular to tests those persons as well.

  • It is critical in the sense that conducting tests on this group of travellers, at the very minimum, assist the Government in detecting and identifying persons who may indeed be asymptomatic, and yet are possibly carriers of the infections. Research has proven that asymptomatic patients can still transmit the virus to others. This matter therefore cannot be resolved without clinical testing.
  • Reporting on the travellers who have been utilising private chartered flights to move through, and from Zimbabwe, since the inception of the lockdown.

2. Preventative measures at water points

Continuing to be concerned that in high density and rural communities, particularly where there are bush pumps, there are still no sanitisation mechanisms in place, which resultantly defeats the efforts of curbing the spread of COVID 19. In this regard we reiterate our previous call to Government to:

  • Deploy Police officers at Communal Water Points urgently to supervise the water point, to reduce gender-based violence and also enforce social distancing and sanitization measures at these points.
  • Deploy Police at bulk water deliveries points to ensure social distance at water points.
  • Expedite decongesting water points, initiative to ensure manning of more water points to improve access to water.

3. Medication and Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for Women

Recognising the critical need to ensure easy accessibility and affordability of medication for patients with chronic illnesses.

Further recognising that women have unique needs that need to be constantly met in relation to sexual reproductive health services.

Deeply concerned by numerous reports received from Harare, Gwanda, Kwekwe, Gweru, Chimanimani, Kadoma and Kariba indicating a price hikes of some chronic illnesses medication, and a desperate unmet need for family planning and sexual and reproductive health products and services;

We reinforce our call for special attention to the supply lines and delivery services of family planning and sexual and reproductive health products and services.

4. Gender Based Violence

Remaining concerned that the National Gender Based Violence responsiveness and readiness systems rests on Civil Society Actors and that government has not taken the lead in providing GBV services yet Government is fully aware that GBV responsiveness is critical within the COVID 19 pandemic. We recommend the proactiveness of Government by undertaking the following;

  • All GBV shelters to be designated as essential services, to be manned and provide services during this period whilst respecting rules of sanitisation, self-isolation and social distancing.
  • The development of the GBV hotline to complement the COVID-19 ‘2019’ hotline.

This SITREP is developed by and through the collective network of organisational and individual members of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe who are engaged at community levels to national levels in the COVID19 Zimbabwe response

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)