Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report: 10 May 2020 – Day 42

Introduction

10 May 2020 marked day 42 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. This national lockdown was initially supposed to last for twenty-one days from 30 March 2020 to 19 April 2020 but has since been extended twice now to 17 May 2020.

On 9 May, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that nine hundred and ninety-nine (999) tests were conducted increasing the cumulative tests of suspected COVID-19 cases to twenty-one thousand two hundred and sixteen (21 216). Of these, twenty-one thousand one hundred and eighty (21 180) were negative. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases remained at thirty-six (36) including nine (9) 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.

Emerging issues

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

Impact on vulnerable groups

The national lockdown has affected vulnerable groups particularly women and people with disabilities. In Gwanda, it was reported that women seeking immunisation services for their children were reportedly turned away at clinics in Gwanda. It was reported that health professionals in Gwanda highlighted that they did not have proper equipment including thermometers and face masks. As a result, they are currently not attending to patients including children needing immunization. It was also reported that in Bulawayo, there was an immunisation outreach program. However, most women and children were not wearing face masks. This poses risks to children as they are being exposed to the COVID-19 disease.

It appears that in the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe women and vulnerable groups have constantly been subjected to unsafe situations. In Cowdry Park in Bulawayo, a group of community members mainly women and people with disabilities were observed waiting for a Bulawayo City Council water bowser at 8 pm though the bowser was scheduled to deliver water at 2 pm. Social distancing was not being observed in the queue and most of the women were not wearing masks.

Reports received from some of the parts of Manicaland especially those affected by Cyclone Idai, and some in Matabeleland North, indicate that pregnant women are struggling to access prenatal care due to the current lockdown. Rural and urban women, particularly from low-income households, are reportedly being forced to deliver at home due to transport challenges, financial problems and health centres that are not operating. It has also been reported that pregnant women are struggling to buy materials to prepare for the birth of their babies since most shops are closed or difficult to reach due to few ZUPCO busses in service that are not reaching most areas nationally.

Lockdown enforcement

There are increasing reports of the deployment of soldiers in most communities around Zimbabwe. Reports received from Mutare, Masvingo and Chinhoyi indicate that joint patrols by police officers and soldiers are increasing in communities. It was further reported that soldiers and anti-riot police officers in Chitungwiza, raided and dispersed vendors at Chigovanyika and Huruyadzo Shopping Centres around 3 pm. It was reported that the soldiers and police officers confiscated goods that were being sold by the vendors which resulted in the enraged vendors retaliating by throwing stones and sticks at the law enforcement officers.

Lockdown Defiance

Community members continue to defy the terms of the lockdown. It was reported that in Redcliff, Kwekwe, community members were observed not wearing face masks. Similar reports were received from Mbare, Epworth, Inyanga and Karoi. In other areas such as Gutu and Kwekwe, community members were observed drinking alcohol at shopping centres. On the streets in most high-density suburbs in Harare and Bulawayo, groups of youths were observed sitting on street corners whilst children were running around the streets. In Lupane, it was also reported that children were observed playing netball at a school ground. The games attracted big crowds which did not observe social distance.

Impact on Communities

The majority of families in Zimbabwe survive on informal trading. Most households have not been productive for the past 40 days. Community members in Buhera have reported that most of the shops were selling commodities in foreign currency. Community members have implored the government to assist them with food aid and priced controls since most of them cannot afford basic commodities such as mealie-meal. In Chimanimani and Muzarabani, community members have also raised alarm over the incessant increase in prices of basic commodities. Community members also indicated that they have been neglected in food distribution programs that have been introduced by the government and other private players.

The financial situation of most households is expected to worsen even after the lockdown is lifted due to the ongoing demolitions of vending stalls and shelters. On 7 May, the government banned the importation and selling of second-hand clothes as part of its measures to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 disease. The majority of vendors at Chikanga vendors market in Mutare and Mupedzanhamo in Harare among other places, survive on selling second-hand clothes. As such the move to ban the importation and selling of second-hand clothes will impoverish a large number of families.

COVID-19 related stigma

Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Bulawayo have reported stigma from society. It was reported that a Bulawayo family who tested positive to COVID-19 have received calls from anonymous people insulting them. They have also received visits to solicit information from them. It was also reported that people bullied the family on social media accusing them of willingly spreading the virus by going outside their house for fresh air. The family narrated how people run away after delivering food parcels at their gate. The family indicated that their personal information including home address and telephone number were released in the mainstream media and social media. Particularly, it has been difficult for the family to access new supplies of food, sanitary wear and disinfectants as they cannot leave their house and no one is willing to assist them.

Returnees

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana indicated that Matabeleland North received seventy-seven (77) returning residents from South Africa and Botswana. The returning residents are quarantined at Lupane State University raising the total number of people quarantined to one hundred and eleven (111). The number of returning residents in Manicaland also increased to two hundred and thirty-four (234). The returnees are housed at Magamba Training Center, Rowa Training Center and Mutare Teachers’ College. Mutare Polytechnic is being prepared as another quarantine centre. Meanwhile, Mkoba Teachers College is being set up as another quarantine centre since Gweru Polytechnic quarantine centre is now full to its capacity of 118 following the arrival of 17 returning residents on 10 May. A shortage of buses has affected the movement of Zimbabweans repatriated from South Africa with some of the returnees stuck in Beitbridge since 8 May 2020.

It was also reported that a team of eleven (11) Chinese experts in treating COVID-19 is expected in the country on 11 May 2020 at 4pm. The experts will be visiting various medical centres around the country to assess the equipment and to share knowledge with local medical practitioners.

Assaults

In Bulawayo, police officers assaulted four (4) people with baton sticks in Magwegwe and Cowdry Park for allegedly loitering and defying the lockdown. It was further reported that police officers from Cowdry Park refused to give one of the female victims a report for her to seek medical assistance. Only three (3) of the victims received medical assistance

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
Assault229Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera, Beitbridge
Attack on Journalists12Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo
Arrests324Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange
Malicious Damage to Property2Harare, Chitungwiza

Court Update

Courts are expected to be fully operational from 11 May 2020 but will not be doing any solemnisation of marriages. Solemnisation of marriages remain suspended until the end of the lockdown. The Judicial Services Commission Acting Secretary Mr Walter Chikwanha said that the courts are ready for opening and have secured all the required personal protective equipment for staff including judges and magistrates. Entry to courtrooms will be limited to litigants, their legal practitioners, witnesses and members of the press.

Conclusion

The Forum castigates the use excessive force by security forces when enforcing the lockdown. The increasing defiance of the national lockdown by community members following the implementation of level 2 of the lockdown is a cause for concern. The defiance of the lockdown mainly relates to the pursuit of food, water and other basic amenities. The Forum, therefore, calls upon the government to assist vulnerable community members to access subsidised food to lessen the defiance of the lockdown. The Forum further discourages community members against stigmatising of people infected and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic bearing in mind that stigma discourages people from getting tested or receiving treatment.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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