Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report: 22 April 2020 – Day 24

Introduction

On 27 March 2020, President Mnangagwa declared a 21-day national lockdown which he then extended for another 14 days to 3 May 2020. The extension of the lockdown was followed by the gazetting of Statutory Instrument (SI) 2020-094 Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (Amendment) Order, 2020 on 21 April 2020.

On day 23 of the lockdown, official statistics by the Ministry of Health and Child Care indicated that COVID-19 confirmed cases remained at twenty-eight (28), whilst the number of deaths relating to COVID-19 had increased to four (4) following the death of an 82-year-old Mhondoro woman who passed away at Westend Hospital which has now been closed.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care decentralised COVID-19 testing to provincial and district level, leading to an increase in daily tests of suspected cases. Thus as of 22 April 2020, cumulative tests of suspected COVID-19 cases had increased to four thousand nine hundred and ninety (4 990), of which four thousand nine hundred and sixty-two (4 962) 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

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (HRC) issued a statement in which, while welcoming the government’s efforts in upscaling response measures, it notes physical and economic violence being perpetrated on citizens. The Commission highlighted the destruction of market stalls by local government authorities, and also queried the denial of passage for employees in essential services and journalists at police checkpoints. The Commission recommended for the Government of Zimbabwe to, among other things, provide a social safety net for vulnerable groups, and for the Commissioner-General of police to direct all officers to avoid and desist from excessive use of force as well as unwarranted deprivation of the rights to personal security and liberty.

On 22 April, through a statement, Vice President Kembo Mohadi who is the chairperson of the interministerial taskforce on COVID-19 response announced that prices of basic commodities should be pegged at prices which obtained on 25 March 2020. He indicated that the escalating prices were speculative and unjustified. According to the statement, the moratorium took effect on 21 April 2020.

Harare City Council released a schedule of the areas that they are going to demolish vending stalls and informal traders markets. This comes after Harare Mayor Obert Gomba issued a statement on 21 April indicating that he had engaged the Town Clerk to stop the demolitions until a comprehensive policy has been devised to approach the issue. The scheduled entailed that the council will demolish vending structures in Budiriro on the 23rd, Mufakosi, Marimba and Kambuzuma on the 24th, Warren Park and Westlea on the 25th, Kuwadzana on the 27th, Dzivarasekwa on the 28th, Mabelreign, Tynwald, Madokero and Westgate on the 29th, Malborough, Greencroft, Avonlea and Strathaven on the 30th, Hatcliff and Borrowdale on the 1st of May and lastly Tafara and Mabvuku on the 2nd of May.

In Hatfield, it was reported that soldiers and anti-riot police raided shops at Chiremba shopping centre where scores of people were gathered on the pavements. Some of the people were in queues for food whilst others were selling various commodities on the pavements. The soldiers and anti-riot police allegedly confiscated alcohol which was being sold through the backdoor at Chans shopping centre.

In Epworth, it was business as usual as youths were playing soccer on the streets, vending, and moving around in groups. At Solani shopping centre, it was reported that police officers were receiving bribes of at least ZWL20 from vendors to allow to continue selling their products. Those who did not pay the bribes were chased away from their vending sites.

At Dombotombo library in Marondera, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare intended to register beneficiaries to benefit from the food distributions which shall take place in due course. Reports indicated that the exercise was chaotic as people were jostling to be registered, such that the police ended up dispersing people.

In Beitbridge, MDC councillor for Swereki, Philemon Ndou reported that MDC supporters are being sidelined in social welfare food distributions that are being spearheaded by ZANU PF councillors. He highlighted that MDC members in his ward are being sidelined as it is the only ward in Beitbridge which was won by the opposition party. On another note, CARITAS Zimbabwe was also distributing food community members in the area.

In Nyanga South, it was reported that army trucks ferrying soldiers and anti-riot police were seen patrolling in the area. It was reported that soldiers and anti-riot police were allegedly asking shop owners to pay a USD5 fine for operating whilst the country is on lockdown.

In Mwenezi, it was reported that Lundi district council destroyed vending stalls around Mwenezi. It was reported that only vendors who were selling vegetables were excluded from the operation.

In an article published in the Newsday of 22 April 2020, it was reported that Bulawayo residents in Pumula South, Old Magwegwe and Emganwini high-density suburbs are sleeping in queues at community boreholes and bowser delivery points due to the lack of potable water. The erratic water supply is a result of the implementation of a 108-hour water-rationing programme resulting from the dwindling levels at supply dams. Other community members who cannot endure long nights in the open have turned to unprotected water sources such as unreclaimed pits dug by the council along Ntemba Road.

Arrests

In Makoni, it was reported that ZRP officers arrested a shop owner at Chiendambuya shopping centre for opening his grinding meal after the stipulated time. It was reported that police officers caught him grinding some maize after 3 pm. He was taken to Chiendambuya police station were he paid admission of guilt fine of ZWL500.

In Mutare, police officers arrested Mutasa South Member of Parliament, Regai Tsungai for distributing food in Palmerston area. It was reported that he was taken to Mutare central police station where he was charged with contravening SI 83 of 2020 relating to unnecessary movements and he was fined ZWL500. In other reported cases, individuals arrested for defying the lockdown paid an admission of guilt fine of ZWL200. However, there was no explanation why Honorable Tsunga was fined ZWL500. The government is therefore urged to standardise the enforcement of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Summary of Violations

The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March 2020 to 22 April 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault181Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane
Attack on Journalists12Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo
Arrests209Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni
Malicious Damage to Property1Harare

Litigation update

Lawyers representing Lovemore Zvokusekwa who was arrested for allegedly circulating a fake message about the President’s intention to extend its 21-day lockdown, filed a High Court bail application seeking to overturn a lower court order to detain him. This was after the Magistrat had denied him bail. Zvokusekwa appeared at Harare Magistrates Court on 20 April on charges of publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state as defined in section 31(a)(i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. Lawyers representing Zvokusekwa indicated that they are considering taking the matter to the Constitutional Court to challenge the constitutionality of section 31 of the Criminal Code.

Conclusion

There is growing concern over the increasing human rights violations by police officers and soldiers enforcing the lockdown. Issues of concern include corruption, human rights violations and unlawful confiscation of products and goods. The Forum, therefore, implores the government to monitor and urgently regulate the conduct of security services in relation to the enforcement of SI 2020-094.

Partisan politics in the distribution of social welfare food aid continues unabated. This has affected vulnerable groups including women, the elderly and child-headed families at a time when most economic activities have been suspended due to the national lockdown. The Forum, therefore, calls upon the government to investigate and intervene to allow the fair distribution of aid without distinction of race, age, religion and political affiliation.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

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