Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report: 23 April 2020 – Day 25

Introduction

Thursday 23 April 2020 was day 25 of the National Lockdown declared by President Mnangagwa initially for 21 days but extended with 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 25 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 remained at four (4). As of 23 April 2020, cumulative tests of suspected COVID-19 cases had increased to five thousand four hundred and twenty-one (5 421), of which five thousand four hundred and forty (5 450) were negative. COVID-19 confirmed cases apart from Case#27 included individuals who had travelled to COVID-19 hotspots before testing. However, Case#27 is unique as the patient had not travelled outside Zimbabwe, nor was she in contact with anyone who had travelled from COVID-19 hotspots. This case indicates that Zimbabwe now has community transmissions from sources that are not being detected. This, therefore, calls for more vigilance and heightened precaution, and a more thorough testing and screening process.

Methodology

Information contained in this report is derived 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). Excerpts from reports generated by Heal Zimbabwe Trust and Community Radio Harare have also been incorporated in this report.

General Atmosphere

Police in Bulawayo have reportedly been banned from purchasing subsidised mealie meal while in uniform. This comes after residents across the city accused police officers of hoarding the product. According to a police memorandum dispatched by the Officer Commanding Bulawayo province to all police stations in the city, police officers were accused of disregarding police standard of discipline. The memorandum directed all police officers to buy mealie meal in civilian clothing so as to stop them from taking advantage of other citizens.

In Budiriro, long queues were reported at TM supermarket where community members were crowded and not exercising social distancing. Vendors and informal traders were also seen taking down the Harare city council published a schedule of the areas they will be demolishing vending stalls. In Glenview, there was a convoy of 8 UD trucks with more than 200 council workers conducting demolitions of vending stalls at Glenview shopping centre. The demolitions attracted crowds of community members who were observing without taking note of the social distance.

In Highfields, it was reported that some residents including people with disabilities received cash transfers from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social reported that individuals received ZWL180. According to a press statement issued by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, twenty-one thousand four hundred and thirty-one (21 431) households in Harare and Bulawayo whilst an additional twenty-six thousand one hundred and forty (26 140) households in Buhera, Binga, Zvimba, Bindura, Zvishavane among other areas. According to the statement, beneficiaries are vulnerable members of society including the poor, people with disabilities and the elderly. The beneficiaries are identified from communities through the social protection program spearheaded by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

In Mbare, vegetable vendors continued selling beyond the stipulated time. Vending was taking place on the road adjacent to Rufaro Stadium and opposite Mbare Police Station. The vendors were a few metres away from a police roadblock where police officers were checking letters of people heading into town, seemingly oblivious of the vending which was happening within their sight.

As the shortages of water continue in Chitungwiza, residents continue to disregard calls for practising social distancing at boreholes and other water collection points.

Assaults

In Mvurwi, soldiers assaulted a man who was on his way to buy groceries at Golys supermarket. The incident occurred around 8 am after the victim explained his intentions to buy groceries for his family. It is alleged that without notice, the soldiers assaulted the victim with sjamboks and rifle butts. The victim proceeded to make a report at Mvurwi police station where he was further harassed by the police before they allowed him with a letter to seek medical attention. He was later treated at Mvurwi Hospital.

It was further reported that soldiers also assaulted another man in Mvurwi for allegedly loitering and defying the lockdown. It was reported that the victim was in his garden when soldiers approached him in his yard and assaulted him with sjamboks. The victim reported that he sustained injuries on his right hand but could not go to the hospital for fear of further victimization.

At Choppies supermarket in Gweru, It was reported that four (4) police officers assaulted a man for allegedly causing chaos in a queue for mealie meal. It was reported that the man was standing away from the queue citing that people were not observing social distance. The police officers pushed him towards the line whilst instructing him to join the queue. It was reported that the man lost his footing and fell on the ground. As he tried to stand up, it was alleged that one of the police officers assaulted him with a baton stick and the other 3 police officers joined in the assault. The man was then handcuffed and taken away from Choppies were the police officers further assaulted before letting him go. The man sustained injuries to his head and back as a result of the assault.

It was further reported that soldiers and police officers manning one of the roadblocks into Gweru CBD assaulted six (6) people with sjamboks and baton sticks for failure to provide letters permitting them to move around. It was reported that the six (6) people who are members of the same family were travelling to a funeral when the vehicle they were travelling in was stopped at the roadblock. It was further reported that the police officers requested all individuals to disembark from the vehicle and produce their letters. After the driver indicated that they all did not have letters as they were going to a funeral on the other side of town, one of the soldiers present indiscriminately started assaulting some of the members who had already disembarked. The other police officers joined in the assault. The six (6) were then ordered to turn back.

The continuing human rights violations by police officers and soldiers enforcing the lockdown is regrettable. These actions are in contempt of the High Court order that was issued in the case of Lucia Masvondo v Minister of Police which expressed barred the police from using excessive force and violence as a means to enforce 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 23 April 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault190Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi
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

Conclusion

In light of the above the Forum, urges the police to comply with the High Court order that was issued in the case of Lucia Masvondo v Minister of Police which expressly barred the police from using excessive force and violence as a means to enforce the lockdown. urges the government to monitor and urgently ensure that all enforcement officers respect human rights whilst implementing the national lockdown. urges all local authorities to ensure that residents have access to safe, clean and potable water, and for those municipalities in respect of which court orders have been granted, to comply with the court orders. continues to implore all citizens to take heed of the national lockdown so that the spread of COVID-19 is slowed down.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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