Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report: 12 April 2020 – Day 14

Introduction

On day 14 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 official statistics by the Ministry of Health and Child Care indicated that COVID-19 confirmed cases remained at fourteen (14), whilst the number of deaths relating to COVID-19 remained at three (3). The cumulative tests conducted is 563 of which 549 were negative.

The Forum is concerned with the conduct of State security agents which is characterised by the use of excessive force when enforcing the lockdown. The excessive use of force and ever-increasing human rights violations come at the backdrop of erratic water supplies and food shortages that cumulatively cause community members to defy the lockdown out of necessity. Cases of partisan distribution of food have also been on the increase.

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

On a positive note, Oxfam partnered with the Harare City Council in ensuring that residents access potable water. Oxfam dispatched a 30 000 litre water tanker to Warren Park residents to complement efforts by the Harare City Council in providing potable water for residents.

Water shortages continue to plague most communities members, particularly in high-density suburbs, were boreholes and wells are not common. Water shortages have been one of the primary causes for the defiance of the lockdown.

In Gokwe Central, there were long queues for mealie meal at N. Richards supermarket. Social distancing was not maintained. Due to the scarcity of mealie meal, individuals were only allowed to buy a maximum of 10kg each. ZRP officers who were present were not enforcing social distancing and they did not have protective clothing.

In Mkoba Ward 10 in Gweru, community members have raised allegations of politicisation of social welfare food aid. It was reported that individuals charged with compiling the food aid database are knowingly sidelining known MDC Alliance members from the list.

In Chipinge, it was business as usual with community members going about their normal business. Vendors and other informal traders were conducting their business without protective clothing or taking hid of social distance. Two bars namely Musomekwa and Zimunya were open from around 1 pm to 6 pm and several community members were spotted drinking alcohol and not observing social distancing.

In Nyamugundura village in Makoni, shops were closed. However, some beerhalls continued selling beer through the backdoor.

Utano Clinic in Norton was forced to close at around 10 am after police officers fired teargas to disperse vendors who were selling their goods closeby. Patients including children and health workers were forced to vacate the clinic. It was also reported that a group of soldiers and police officers violently dispersed community members who were seen moving around Norton. They were spotted harassing people and threatening them with assault from as early as 0700am . All these actions were reportedly in anticipation of ensuring that streets would be clean as the President was expected to pass through Norton on his way to his Kwekwe farm.

In Chitungwiza, community members continue to defy the lockdown in search of water, mealie-meal and to generate income for their families. Community members were seen queuing at community boreholes in St Marys, Makoni, Zengeza 2 and Unit K. At Chigowayika in St Mary’s scores of people were seen buying various products from vendors who lined the streets.

Assaults

ZRP officers assaulted six (6) people in Gweru at Budiriro turn off in Mkoba around 4:45 pm with baton sticks. The six (6) were accused of failing to follow the lockdown rules by loitering. The officers went ahead and dispersed vendors who were selling their wares at Mkoba shopping centre.

In Mutoko at Corner Store business centre, three (3) soldiers and one (1) police officer assaulted community members who had queued to buy groceries with baton sticks and sjamboks. The soldiers and police officer accused people of not adhering to the lockdown. They then ordered all shops to be closed before the stipulated time. Four (4) people sustained injuries as a result of the assaults.

Two (2) people were assaulted by three (3) police officers with baton sticks at Chicken City in Chivi. It is reported that the 2 people were accused of loitering and illegally trading in foreign currency. However, the police officers assaulted the 2 people instead of arresting and charging them.

Attack on journalists

Freelance journalist Terence Sipuma was on 11 April 2020 reportedly assaulted by members of the police and the army at Kuwadzana roundabout in Harare while on his way to Chegutu to report on Zimbabwe’s 21-day COVID-19 lockdown. According to Sipuma, who is a member of the Young Journalists Association (YOJA), he was stopped at the roundabout and asked where he was going. He showed them his media accreditation card and explain that he was travelling to Chegutu to follow up on a story. The security officers asked him to lie down and they started assaulting him with sjamboks and baton sticks accusing him of exposing their behaviour during the lockdown. The security forces further took his phone and went through his photo library to look for photos and videos relating to the conduct of security forces during the lockdown.

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
Assault155Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi
Attack on Journalists10Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo
Arrests164Masvingo, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton

Court Update

Three legal cases, all concerning issues related with the national lockdown are expected to be heard by the courts.

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.

An urgent chamber application filed by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on behalf of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) is also expected to come before the High Court in Harare on 13 April 2020. The Applicants are seeking an order to compel the government to adequately equip health centres and workers with proper protective equipment.

The High Court is also expected to hear a matter brought before it by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Zimbabwe) which is seeking an order to interdict the ZRP and other law enforcement agencies responsible for enforcing SI 83 of 2020, the 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 eversince the lockdown started. The matter is yet to be setdown for hearing.

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. 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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