Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report: 6-7 May 2020 – Days 38 & 39

Introduction

6 and 7 May 2020 marked days 38 and 39 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa initially for the period 30 March 2020 to 19 April 2020, but has since been extended to 17 May 2020.

On 7 May, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that one thousand six hundred and eighty-three (1 683) tests were conducted increasing the cumulative tests of suspected COVID-19 cases to seventeen thousand seven hundred and thirty-five (17 735). Of these, seventeen thousand seven hundred and one (17 701) were negative. This is the ninth consecutive day that statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Care indicate that Zimbabwe has no new COVID-19 infections or deaths to report. Zimbabwe has thirty-four (34) confirmed cases, of which nine (9) are recoveries and four (4) deaths.

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.

Legal Provisions

More amendments to the public health lockdown measures emerged as the government has promulgated two more statutory instruments. These are contained in the Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (Amendment) Order, 2020 (No. 7) (SI 102/2020) and the Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (No. 3) (SI 103/2020). This makes a total of 15 COVID-19 related statutory instruments introducing special measures to date. The accumulation of amendments will make them difficult to understand for the general public.

Both Statutory Instruments 102 and 103 of 2020 make certain amendments to the regulations. Both these new provisions add and make into law requirements for employers and employees who want to return to work under level 2 to do the following: ensure that they are screened and tested for COVID-19, whether by use of the rapid results diagnostic test or other tests approved by the Minister of Health and Child Care; ensure that employees sanitise their hands and have their temperatures checked when they enter employment premises; ensure that testing and screening are done with 14 days of opening of the businesses, and that the employer keeps records and evidence that each individual has been screened and tested. The operative date for counting the 14 days is from 7 May 2020. If an employer opens later that 7 May 2020, it is up to that employer to prove the date of opening from which the 14 days will start.

The regulations provide that the Minister of Health and Child Care may order further screening and testing of business operators and/or their employees at intervals of not less than 30 days. Screening and retesting may be done by arrangement with the Ministry of Health and Child Care. Enforcement officers will have the right to inspect premises and records for compliance and may order the business to close if there is non-compliance. Employers who fail to comply may be liable to pay a fine or to imprisonment or both.

Emerging issues

The following issues have emerged as a result of the level 2 lockdown.

Impact on communities

Community members nationally are confused about the regulations and expectations under level 2 of the lockdown. This is on account of the various regulations being issued regularly, often with little to no consultation. Some security officers at checkpoints nationally are demanding exemption letters to allow for passage, while others are not. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana indicated through a tweet that police officers could request for exemption letters at their own discretion. The current statutory instruments regulating the level 2 national lockdown do not expressly require one to have exemption letters. In recorded incidences, some community members were detained or turned back by police officers at checkpoints for fialing to produce these letters.

The cost of face masks which range between USD1 to USD5 are beyond the reach of many. Most community members cannot afford to buy protective equipment including gloves, sanitisers and in some instances soap. Therefore, most community members are moving around without face masks, leaving them susceptible to infection. In recorded incidences, community members have been detained, harassed, arrested, and assaulted as a result of the lack of face masks.

Given that the majority of Zimbabweans are in the informal sector, the lockdown has harmed the financial situation of most households who have gone for 39 days without an income. The level 2 lockdown does not permit the informal sector to operate. Some in the informal sector are defying the lockdown to undertake various economic activities. This also comes at the backdrop of nationwide demolitions of vending stalls and shelters. In Glenview, vendors from the area gathered at Glenview 3 Shopping Centre, to be allocated vending sites by Harare City Council officials. It was reported that the allocation was spearheaded by ZANU PF District Chairperson Collins Chitepo who used a register that favoured ZANU PF members.

Water shortages continue to plague communities due to the failure by local authorities in most cities in Zimbabwe to deliver potable water. Community boreholes in most towns and cities are crowded and do not respect stipulated COVID-19 measures including social distancing and hygiene. Community members have resorted to unprotected sources of water including rivers, streams and unprotected shallow wells sunk in wetlands. This has left community members at risk of contracting waterborne diseases. Long queues were observed at community boreholes in Bulawayo, Chitungwiza and the Mabvuku/Tafara area, among other places.

Many community members are experiencing food shortages as a result of the prolonged lockdown. Various private and public players have come up with programs to assist community members with food. In Insiza, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare distributed food aid to community members. It was reported that the food aid consisted of 50kgs of maize for each household and ZWL50 for transport. Social distancing and hygiene were not being observed during the food distribution process. Community members were instructed to wear face masks, and those who did not have masks were turned away. In Umzingwane, it was also reported that the World Food Program (WFP) distributed food aid in the form of maize to community members.

Lockdown enforcement

Police officers in most towns and cities have mounted checkpoints on major roads leading into the CBDs. The checkpoints usually consist of ZRP officers, armed soldiers and local municipality officers. Since the level 2 national lockdown meaures were effected, police officers now require one to wear a face mask to be allowed passage. In some recorded cases, especially in Harare and Bulawayo, the police checkpoints have become a haven for corruption with security officers accepting bribes for safe passage.

It has also been noted that fines for arrested persons are not standard nationally. In reports received, arrested persons have been ordered to pay different fines for the same offence depending on the area.

Business

Most companies nationally have been unable to start operations under level 2 lockdown due to the need for testing. Most companies have cited the high cost of test kits which range between US$25 and US$65, depending on the test. Placing such a financial burden on companies that have not been productive for over a month, has significant impact on the capacity of companies to provide testing kits for their employees. As a result, most companies have been unable to start operations. A relief for some has been the new requirements allowing operations, subject to testing being done within 14 days.

Transport

Statutory Instrument 99 of 2020 Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (Amendment) Order, 2020 (No. 5) stipulate that public buses are the only mode of public transport allowed. Omnibuses like combis and smaller taxis are still not permitted to operate. This has resulted in a critical shortage of transport for workers commuting to and from their respective places of employment. Reports received from Chitungwiza, Glenview and most suburbs in Bulawayo, indicated that many passengers failed to board limited ZUPCO buses. Crowds of stranded workers were witnessed in most city centres as workers were struggling to find transport to go to their respective homes.

Lockdown defiance

Community members have continuously defied the terms of the lockdown in pursuit of economic activities, food and water. The defiance of the lockdown regulations has been on the increase nationally since level 2 of the lockdown started. In Marondera, Mudzi, Chipinge and Mt Darwin, among other places nationally, community members continue to defy the lockdown regulations relating to social distancing and the use of protective equipment such as masks.

Arrests

On 6 May in Gweru, police officers arrested nineteen (19) people in Gweru for not putting on face masks. It was reported that ten (10) people were taken to Gweru Central Police Station and the other nine (9) people were taken to Mtapa Police Station. The arrested persons were released after paying ZWL200 fine admission of guilt fine. Similarly, in Mwenezi at Lundi Business Centre, ZRP officers arrested two (2) people for not wearing face masks. They were later released without charge. On 7 May in Gweru, another six (6) vendors were arrested at Mkoba 6 Shopping Centre for allegedly conducting business after the stipulated times. It was reported that the vendors were selling their goods after 6 pm, when they were arrested and taken to Mkoba Police Station. The six (6) were detained overnight for 13 hours and released on 8 May without any charges.

In Guruve, at Makombi farm, a female shop owner was arrested by police officers and fined ZWL1500 for opening her shop late. It was reported that the shop owner was taken to Guruve Police Station were police officers threatened to terminate her shop license. She later paid the stipulated fine and was released.

Summary of violations

The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March 2020 to 7 May 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault215Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera
Attack on Journalists12Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo
Arrests321Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve
Malicious Damage to Property2Harare, Chitungwiza

Court Update

Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) filed an urgent application at the Harare High Court on 7 May 2020 to compel the government to publish the distribution matrix of the COVID-19 funds donated by the public, and from international partners. The matter is yet to be heard.

Conclusion

The abrupt implementation of level 2 of the national lockdown has stirred up confusion among community members. Of concern is the increasing numbers of people defying the regulations of the national lockdown to pursue economic activities without the necessary protective clothing. Transport challenges have continued to plague community members commuting to work and back due to the shortage of ZUPCO busses. The Forum urges the government to clarify pertinent issues relating the lockdown measures, and ensure consistency of the regulations and enforcement. Further, the Forum urges the government to investigate reported cases of corruption by state security officers.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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