Today marks the 17th Day of the Lockdown in Zimbabwe, with exactly 4 days to go before the lockdown ends. What will life look like after the lockdown? This is a question on everyone’s mind. While citizens do not know what the future holds for the nation of Zimbabwe, clarity and timeous Government position and public pronouncement of strategic direction on COVID 19 response after the current lockdown would go a long way in alleviating anxiety and speculation amongst the citizens.
We commend the expansion of testing protocols in Zimbabwe and note the target of undertaking 33 000 test with a wide array of persons covered in the testing protocol. In particular we also not the period to testing 30th of April 2020 which provides a clear 16 days period of expanded testing.
- We support the rapid escalation of decentralisation of testing services to areas such as Gwanda, Filabusi, Beitbridge and Plumtree.
- We remain vigilant to ensuring that the expanded testing protocol is tangible and accessible on the ground.
We note commendable steps in districts around the country who have demonstrated the expedition of upgrades to various hospital facilities and the input of the Department of Public Works.
Critical Emerging Issues
As of 15th April 2020, we have noted the following critical emerging issues that require urgent redress:
1. Safety of Children and Access to Child Justice
Alarmed by growing reports both from our networks and the media indicating violence against children during this lockdown;
Appreciating that in times of humanitarian emergencies such as the one at hand, there is an increased risk to the safety of children as they may be exposed to paedophiles, brutal beatings and child labour;
- We call upon Government and to actively support mechanisms to provide support to household through the deployment of Social Welfare officers to conduct the critical inspections at homes that are reported to be at risk and to respond to such risks by:
- Ensuring that helplines for children remain fully functional
- Prioritising funding shelters and other places of safety for survivors
- Expanding critical services for children and ensuring accessibility
- Ensuring community child protection committees are supported to play their roles as community care workers
2. Transparency and Accountability within Social Protection Programs
Gravely alarmed by reports received through our networks of unscrupulous groups and individuals, moving around communities demanding $2 from each household as registration fee for the social protection programs. Particularly reports in Budiriro, Chitungwiza and Kariba;
- We remind government that this environment is directly correlated to the failure of government to date formally provide the clear guidelines of how registration for such services is to be undertaken in every province and district.
- The inability by Government to set out clear well known and easily understandable steps, create and facilitate an environment for maladministration, corruption and abuse of citizens.
- We call upon Government to ensure respect of human rights and urgently ensure the law enforcement agents act to stop the abuse of vulnerable persons on Government programs
We further amplify the alarm at reports received through our networks, regarding the politicisation of food aid and programs in communities;
Recognizing that every citizen of Zimbabwe, regardless of political affiliation has been severely affected by the lockdown, and has lost out on income;
Noting that these unscrupulous persons have taken advantage of the lack of clear communication by Government in relation to the relief programs;
- We reiterate our call to Government, particularly the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to clearly communicate and publicize all food aid programs and the qualification criteria for beneficiaries.
- We further urge Government to expedite the roll out of such programs in a non-partisan manner.
1. Travel permits
Remaining concerned with reports of citizens being barred from travelling from one area to another, even for genuine reasons exempted under the containment regulations;
Deeply frustrated at the continuing administrative hurdles that citizens have to face in securing travel permits, having to move from one office to the other, between the Police and the local authorities;
Alarmed with growing reports of desperate citizens compelled to bribe the concerned authorities to access legitimate services or activities during this lockdown;
Noting that such enforcement inconsistencies undermine the articulation of policy at national levels.
- We recommend clear communication on the procedure to be followed in acquiring a travel permit.
2. Social Distancing
Concerned with the growing reports of communities disregarding social distancing in the following categories:
- Funerals and other traditional gathering;
- Members of some churches, who seem to have disregarded social distancing measures and have resumed church gatherings.
- Playing of soccer in with large audiences in predominantly high density suburbs engaging in activities such as playing soccer with large numbers of community members watching
- The picking of macimbi / madora in Beitbridge, Plumtree and Gwanda;
- Fisheries and fish processing activities in Kariba;
We call on Government to reiterate its position on social distancing and public gatherings with the support of applicable and contextualised information that informs and raises awareness with the above communities.
3. Use of Violence by Enforcement Officers
Deeply concerned by reports concerning citizens who have been defying the law by refusing to cooperate and comply with the lockdown measures;
We remain concerned with reports indicating the Police and Zimbabwe Defence Forces brutality against citizens.
Communications from our networks in Mutare, Norton and Zengeza, and other media platforms indicate that the enforcement agents, have in certain circumstances demanded bribe in order to grant travel passes to citizens. These actions threaten the very core of constitutionalism and respect for fundamental human rights.
Concerned further by reports of police brutality in communities that were part of the Presidential COVID-19 Community outreach program were citizens indicated police brutality prior to visits by the head of state in their respective communities.
- We therefore continue to urge the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to operate within the parameters of the law. Citizens who are found in contravention of any law should not be subjected to any inhuman or degrading punishment. It is not for the Army or the Police to decide on the form of punishment to be inflicted on the offender. Rather the law must simply take its course.
- In the same vein, once again, we call upon the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to stand ready to protect the rights of citizens in these difficult times and investigate violations of human rights during the enforcement of the lockdown.
- We also call upon Parliament of Zimbabwe, even in adjournment, to sleep with one eye open and protect the Constitution and promote democratic governance in this global emergency.
This SITREP is develop 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)