Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report: 13 April 2020 – Day 15

Introduction

On day 15 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 had increased to seventeen (17), whilst the number of deaths relating to COVID-19 remained at three (3). The cumulative tests conducted is 604 of which 587 were negative.

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

On a positive note, the Harare City Council has been making efforts to deploy water tankers to water strained communities including Warren Park, Glennora, Malborogh, Kambuzuma, Mabvuku, Kuwadzana, Budiriro and Hatcliffe. Harare City Council has also started to fix some dysfunctional community boreholes in communities including Hatcliffe, Mabvuku, Dzivarasekwa, Kambuzuma, Glennora, Highfields, Tafara, Kuwadzana and Warren Park. This is in response to an order by the High Court in Harare following an application made by the Combined Harare Residents Asociation. However, the Council needs to step up efforts to avail tapped water as most communities are still at risk of COVID-19 at community boreholes.

All roads leading into the city centre of Harare had roadblocks manned by members of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) as well as Harare Municipal Police who were stopping motorists and checking residents’ purpose of getting into the city centre. At Pick and Pay Supermarket in Ruwa, scores of people were gathered outside as they waited for their turn to buy groceries. Of concern was the total disregard for the social distancing policy which is perpetuating the spread of COVID-19 within communities. Apart from community members seeking to buy groceries, the streets in Ruwa were littered with groups of people. It was reported that in Epworth, police officers were instructing shop owners to close shops in Domboramwari. The ZRP officers were also chasing away people gathered at shopping centres. At Chadcombe Shopping Centre in Harare, scores of people were seen queuing for mealie meal at TM supermarket. Social distancing was not being observed given the large number of people who were gathered. Similar queues were reported at OK Ardbenie, OK Horton Park and Spar Arcadia.

In Gweru, ZRP officers descended on people buying groceries at Choppies supermarket at Mkoba 6 ShoppingCcentre. It was reported that anti-riot police surrounded community members who were queued at Choppies supermarket and forced them back home for violating the lockdown and defying recommended social distance. President Mnangagwa also took a tour of Gweru to assess residents’ compliance with the 21-day lockdown.

In Buhera, movement of people was limited as community members were observing the lockdown. World Vision conducted food distribution in the area. Social distance was observed during the food aid distribution.

In Sakubva in Mutare, community members reported that government food aid distribution in the area is being conducted on a partisan basis. It was reported that the government food distributions in the area are being run by ZANU PF affiliates. It was also relayed that on 12 April about 200 people were summoned by the ZANU PF Manicaland Youth Assembly at Sakubva Beit Hall to draw up a list of social aid food beneficiaries. It was further reported that ZANU PF supporters were responsible for screening beneficiaries and those who were not aligned to the party were not included on the lists.

Arrests

In Kuwadzana 4 shopping centre, at around 9 am ZRP and municipal police were chasing people away due to an increase in vendors and community members who were crowded. It was reported that seven (7) vendors were arrested and taken to Kuwadzana police post where they were detained for 5 hours. They were released after paying an admission of guilt fine of ZWL200. It was also reported that community members who were queuing at OK supermarket in Kuwadzana 4 for groceries were harassed and dispersed by police officers who accused them of violating the social distance policy. Most people went home without buying groceries.

Attack on journalists

Freelance journalist James Jemwa was forced by two soldiers to delete video footage in Mufakose. Jemwa was interviewing some individuals in Mufakose at Gwenyambira shopping centre for his upcoming documentary film when he was approached by police officers who inquired on what he was doing. Jemwa showed them his press card and they left him to continue with his professional duties. However, a few minutes later a vehicle with over 15 soldiers arrived at the shopping centre and two soldiers approached him. These soldiers expressed their disregard to the fact that Jemwa is a journalist who was carrying out his professional duties. The two soldiers reportedly forced him to delete the video footage. They also threatened him with assault if he continued filming.

In a similar incident, Newsday journalist Tapiwa Zivira was harassed by a ZRP officer at corner Robert Mugabe and Rotten Row in the CBD. He was detained for almost 30 minutes with the ZRP officer arguing that his press card expired in 2019. Zivira explained that 2019 press cards are still valid since the Zimbabwe Media Commission has not issued 2020 press cards. Zivira was let go after 30 minutes.

Summary of Violations

The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March 2020 to 13 April 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault151Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi
Attack on Journalists12Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo
Arrests171Masvingo, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton

Court Update

Harare North constituency legislator Allan Norman Markham and Mfundo Mlilo, a human rights activist filed an urgent application on 8 April 2020 at the High Court of Harare, against the Minister of Health and Child Care, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Local Government and the President of Zimbabwe to compel them to promulgate regulations to support SI 83 of 2020. The legislator and activist want the government to be ordered to pass and enforce regulations that provide for emergency relief in the form of door to door food handouts, cash handouts, water deliveries and other related provisions that sustain the livelihoods of affected communities to vulnerable communities, informal traders, and unemployed persons.

Conclusion

Cases of the partisan distribution of food aid are on the rise. This is 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.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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