Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report: 11 April 2020 – Day 13

Introduction

On day 13 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 11 April 2020, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to fourteen (14), whilst the number of deaths relating to COVID-19 remained at three (3). The cumulative tests conducted is 547 of which 528 were negative.

In the 8pm news bulletin of the 11th of April 2020, Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Mangaliso Ndlovu stated that the Minister of Health and Childcare had undertaken to test thirty-three thousand (33,000) people by end of April 2020. At the moment the government has tested less than one thousand (1,000) people and we have almost two weeks to go to the end of April. There is therefore serious concern over the Government’s preparedness to deal with this pandemic. The Forum hopes the Minister of Health and Childcare will be able to table out high he intends to accelerate the testing to achieve the stated targets.

The Forum is equally 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.

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

In a welcoming note that will ease congestion in health centres in Harare, Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo is set to start COVID-19 testing on 13 April 2020. It has been reported that the hospital will start testing over 200 people who are at Plumtree High School which is now serving as COVID-19 isolation centre after they were deported from Botswana. At Checheche growth point scores of people were seen jostling for mealie meal before it was even unloaded from trucks. Women and the elderly were seen crowded in long winding queues with total disregard for social distance. No law enforcement officers were controlling the queue.

In Warren Park, soldiers armed with rifles and sjamboks were patrolling the streets. This comes a day after 5 soldiers assaulted a man in the area who later passed away at Parirenyatwa Hospital on 11 April 2020 as a result of the injuries sustained. ZRP officers were seen at Mereki shopping centre forcing shop owners and pharmacies to close. At OK supermarket in St Mary’s Chitungwiza, scores of people were gathered to buy mealie meal and groceries. Though OK supermarket employees were checking the temperature and sanitizing hands of customers, social distancing was not being observed. Due to the scarcity of mealie meal, people were only allowed to buy 10kgs.

At Kuwadzana 4 shopping centre, police officers used tear gas to disperse the large number of people who were gathered at the shops. It was reported that vendors and illegal foreign currency dealers resisted ZRP officers who had instructed them to return to their homes leading to police officers using teargas. People who were buying groceries at OK supermarket and those residing in nearby homes were affected by the teargas.

Police officers reportedly raided homes in Hopley. It was reported that police officers raided a tuckshop and took ZWL520 and US$29 from the shop keeper. It was reported that they arrested the shop owner and drove a distance away from Hopley before dumping him and leaving with his money.

In Gokwe, all entry points into the CBD were sealed by the police and the army. People with valid reasons and letters were allowed entry into the CBD. Vendors were chased away from their vending locations.

In Gutu South, ZANU PF councillor for ward 5 Chitapaza was reportedly forcing people to take part in the building of a community hall. Villagers who refused to participate were threatened that they will not benefit from the government’s food aid program.

In Mkoba Gweru, community members were gathered at Choppies supermarket to buy mealie meal and groceries. A large number of people managed to buy without any interference by members of police or soldiers. The security situation in Gweru was characterised by heavy police presence and military patrols. Meanwhile, a large number of police officers from Mkoba police camp were deployed around 5:45 pm to stem out beerhalls and illicit bars that have been clandestinely selling alcohol.

Assaults

Three (3) people were assaulted by soldiers with sjamboks in Chiredzi. It was reported that one (1) woman was assaulted in Lion drive and two (2) men in Cheruwa road for loitering and defying the lockdown. Residents in Chiredzi are now living in fear of army brutality as soldiers patrolling the streets late at night are allegedly assaulting and harassing people.

Bulawayo police officers assaulted two (2) people at eMabuthweni suburb opposite Makalanga Bar in Mpopoma while enforcing the lockdown. They were assaulted with baton sticks and sustained injuries. This comes a few days after police officers assaulted Levison Ncube in the same neighbourhood. Ncube subsequently passed away at Mpilo Hospital on 9 April due to the injuries sustained during the assault. Again in Bulawayo’s Nkulumane suburb, seven (7) police officers are alleged to have assaulted five (5) individuals who were caught drinking alcohol in a raid at Mqomboti Beerhall in Nkulumane. The police officers arrested 3 of the patrons who were later released after paying an admission of guilt fine of 200RTGS.

In Marondera, ZRP officers and soldiers assaulted at least seven (7) people with baton sticks and sjamboks in areas such as Chitanda, Cherima and Karimazondo. The people were allegedly assaulted for defying the national lockdown and loitering without due cause.

Attack on journalists

The officer Commanding Masvingo Province, Assistant Commissioner (AC) Tawoneyi Nyazema is reported to have threatened two senior journalists from TellZim in Masvingo over a news column in the Masvingo provincial newspaper. The journalists, Golden Maunganidze and Passmore Kuzipa, who are director and editor of TellZim News, were invited to Masvingo Central Police by the police spokesperson Charity Mazula for what seemed to be a routine engagement meeting between police and scribes. Upon arrival at the meeting, the Assistant Commissioner demanded to know the author of the newspaper’s satirical column – Mapombi Adonha. The duo, however, explained to the Assitant Commissioner that it is unethical to disclose names of contributors to anonymous columns. The Assistant Commissioner then requested for their identification details before chasing them away and threatening both the journalists and newspaper with unspecified action.

Arrests

In our edition of yesterday, we reported on the arrest of Memory Makumire, a lawyer who stays in Norton who was arrested and detained by Norton police on Friday evening on allegations of loitering in contravention of the lockdown regulations. Makumire was allegedly arrested at her gate whilst coming from buying vegetables. She was only released yesterday after her lawyer, Blessing Gorejena who is the Director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum paid admission of guilty fine of ZWL 200 for her.

In Gweru CBD, eleven (11) people were arrested by ZRP officers at OK supermarket and taken to Gweru central police station where they were detained for more than 5 hours. The people were accused of causing commotion in a queue and not adhering to the recommended social distance. They were later released after paying an admission of guilt fee of ZWL200.

In Empumalanga in Bulawayo, fifteen (15) people were arrested by ZRP officers after they were seen practising wedding steps. Police officers arrested them together with the house owner known and force-marched them to Empumalanga police station where they were released after paying ZWL200 fine each.

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
Assault143Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera
Attack on Journalists9Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo
Arrests164Masvingo, 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.

Mental health

Upon announcement of the lockdown by the President on 27 March 2020, many Zimbabwean citizens were caught unprepared. The government implemented the lockdown without clear measures to cushion citizens from its accompanying economic impact. People such as vendors who depend on their daily sales to sustain their families were exposed and made more vulnerable. The situation was exacerbated by raids on vegetable markets such as the incident at the Sakubva vegetable market in Mutare on 3 April 2020 by police agents which led to the destruction of 3 tonnes of vegetables and presumably traumatized vendors and the suppliers. There is need for reparations and rehabilitation for all the victims. This equally applies to the hundreds of people who were arrested, assaulted and attacked during the lockdown. Nurses and doctors who were working to save lives without proper and adequate medical equipment and protective clothing should also go through some sought of counselling and rehabilitation.

The Forum calls for the establishment of a robust psycho-social support system for victims in the aftermath of the lockdown by restoring mental health institutions in Zimbabwe and develop a set of principles and policies that will ensure that there are safe spaces for victims in so far as mental health is concerned.

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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