Citizens, ZLHR Demand Police, Soldiers Wear Protective Clothing and Stop Brutality During Enforcement of National Lockdown

TWO Chinhoyi residents have petitioned the High Court seeking an order to compel police officers and soldiers, who are currently enforcing the national lockdown to wear protective clothing in the course of discharging their duties and to stop the arbitrary arrest and assault of members of the public.

The Chinhoyi residents John Basopo and Grace Yona made the request in an urgent chamber application filed on Friday 10 April 2020 at the High Court and supported by Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights in which they asked the court to prohibit Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) members and Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) officers from rounding up and assaulting members of the public during the lockdown period.

Basopo and Yona told the court that some ZRP members and ZNA officers assaulted them and other members of the public on 7 April 2020 on allegations of violating laws relating to the national lockdown after they were allegedly found preparing food on an open fire as there was no electricity in their suburb and while parking a vehicle outside their respective homes.

Basopo and Yona stated that they are worried that the army officers who assaulted and tortured them could have infected them with the deadly coronavirus as they were just assaulting them while their nose and mouths were not covered.

The conduct of ZRP members and ZNA officers, Basopo and Yona said, while manifestly unlawful, also violated provisions of the law mandating the maintenance of social distancing to curb the transmission of the virus and placed them at great risk of contracting the virus.

Basopo, Yona and ZLHR, who are represented by Rudo Magundani and Paidamoyo Saurombe of ZLHR, cited Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe, Commissioner-General of Police Godwin Matanga and Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and Phillip Sibanda, the ZNA Commander as respondents.

The respondents namely Kazembe, Matanga, Muchinguri-Kashiri and Sibanda, Basopo, Yona and ZLHR charged, failed to protect the public by failing to enforce the lockdown regulations at open markets such as Mbare Musika in Harare and Sakubva in Mutare, where gatherings continue to grow unabated, a situation which promotes the spread of coronavirus and threatens the health and life of Zimbabweans.

Basopo, Yona and ZLHR want the High Court to issue an interdict to prevent police and army officers from assaulting and rounding up residents in crammed vehicles during the national lockdown to prevent the spread and transmission of coronavirus and for the law enforcement agents to be compelled to lawfully enforce the lockdown order in crowded areas which have been classified under essential services.

Basopo, Yona and ZLHR argued that the coronavirus pandemic poses a real and current threat to their right to health and right to life and are entitled to protection of those rights.

ZLHR, represented by Roselyn Hanzi, the organisation’s Executive Director said the country’s leading legal defence group, had monitored and observed the rounding up of citizens by the police, acting in common purpose and consent with some army officers and being placed in crammed vehicles.

Hanzi said while Zimbabwe is in a state of national disaster as declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, certain fundaments rights as enshrined in section 86(3) of the Constitution remain sacrosanct and inviolable and that the police and army must continue to observe and uphold the right to life and the right to human dignity in the course of their duties during the national lockdown.

Hanzi said she had observed that police officers have not been wearing protective clothing such as masks while discharging their duties which means that if they are infected with the virus, they will easily spread same to each other and to the public which presents a threat not only to themselves but to the public at large.

The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

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