Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report: 12 May 2020 – Day 44

Introduction

12 May 2020 marked day 44 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 12 May, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that eight hundred and thirty-one (831) tests were conducted and were all negative. This increased the cumulative tests of suspected COVID-19 cases to twenty-three thousand and nine hundred and twenty-seven (23 927). Of these, twenty-three thousand eight hundred and ninety (23 890) were negative. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases therefore remains at thirty to thirty-seven (37) including twelve (12) 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 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: 15th Cabinet Decision Matrix on COVID-19; The Chairman of the Ad-hoc Inter-Ministerial Task Force on COVID-19 Vice President Kembo Mohadi indicated that as at 11 May 2020, progress registered in the fight against the COVID-19 included the following: Treasury released ZWL27.54 million to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) and the District Development Fund (DDF) for countrywide drilling of boreholes. The establishment of COVID-19 quarantine facilities at all ports of entry with a total of 3 611 returnees having been quarantined by 11 May 2020; Screening of all returnees by law enforcement officers to ensure identification of convicts and those who committed crimes before the lockdown in Zimbabwe and other countries; and Establishment of the COVID-19 Command Centre headed by the Civil Protection Unit at Makombe Building to coordinate COVID-19 operations. Cabinet also noted the increase in briefcase companies which are involved in the tendering process for COVID-19 supplies including test kits, gloves and other sundries. Cabinet also agreed to allow returnees to pay for their own accommodation at private facilities for mandatory quarantine on condition that the facility is secure and subject to inspection by health and security officials. Metropolitan cities will be capacitated financially to enable them to provide water supplies to residence during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Lockdown enforcement

Allegations of corruption and unprofessional conduct by security forces in enforcing the lockdown have been on the increase. In Nyanga, it was reported that police officers were demanding bribes at checkpoints in Ruwangwe and at a checkpoint near Troutbeck Inn turn off. It was alleged that police officers were requesting motorists without clearance letters to pay ZWL50 to be allowed easy passage at roadblocks without being arrested or detained. It was also reported that an individual who was caught not wearing a face mask by police officers in Penhalonga was requested to pay USD10 to avoid getting arrested.

In Tsholotsho it was reported that police officers were impounding vehicles in cases where drivers had not paid their road tax and insurance despite the fact that the failure by drivers to make the payments was as a result of the implementation of the national lockdown.

Lockdown Defiance

At Gazaland home industry in the Highfield suburb of Harare, informal traders and community members were observed going about their normal business without taking note of social distance. Community members including children and youths were observed loitering in the streets in Highfield. At Gazaland, beerhalls were selling alcohol through the backdoor. The councilor of the area, Fungai Nyapokoto was moving around Gazaland home industry informing community members that the Harare City Council will soon be conducting demolitions of all informal settlements in the area. In Mudzi, there was a funeral and it was reported that mourners who were gathered exceeded the stipulated number of people allowed to gather at any particular moment during the lockdown period. It was further reported that they were not exercising social distancing nor were they wearing face masks.

Impact on Communities

The economic effects of the lockdown have increased the lockdown defiance by community members. Meanwhile, the continuous increase of prices of basic commodities by resellers has had negative effects on community members. In Bikita South, prices of basic commodities have drastically increased and in some shops 2 litres of cooking oil now ranges from ZWL170-210.

In Mt Darwin, informal traders reported that the lockdown has heavily affected them economically since they cannot conduct their business in compliance with the lockdown regulations. Most informal traders reported that they they are now food insecure since they cannot conduct their regular economic activities.

In Muzarabani, it was reported that out of poverty, young girls and most women have resorted to prostitution since they cannot conduct their regular business. It was also reported that minors are also engaging in artisanal mining activities to fundraise. It was further reported that community members do not have access to protective clothing therefore their exposure to the COVID-19 disease is increased.

The Epworth Local board continued conducting demolitions at Masenza shopping centre. In collaboration with anti-riot police, Epworth Local Board authorities demolished vending stalls and structures which resulted in large crowds gathering to observe the destruction. Meanwhile, owners of the vending stalls were observed sifting through the rubbles for undamaged building materials. Similar reports of the destruction of property were reported from Kuwadzana where Harare City Council destroyed tuckshops and other vending stalls.

Impact on business

It was reported that a group of people is moving around the Harare CBD and outlying shopping centers purporting to be City of Harare or government employees. It was further reported that the individuals are charging shop and business owners what they call “COVID-19 compliance fees” of up to ZWL250.

On day 44, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that only 122 tests were conducted by the private sector. Given that most companies have reopened, this number shows that the mandatory testing of employees has not gained traction. After the announcement of the level 2 regulations, most companies indicated that the COVID-19 test kits are expensive and requested the government to assist with the provision of subsidised testing kits. However, the government did not make efforts to provide subsidised test kits. As a result, most companies are unable to comply with the mandatory regulations of testing all employees.

Institutional reforms: The health sector

On 8 May 2020, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that a shipment of 16 tonnes of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) comprising of masks and gowns landed in Harare to assist the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s efforts in responding to COVID-19. However, most health professionals and front line personnel nationally are operating without PPEs. In rural Matabeleland North, it was reported that community health workers who have been playing a pivotal role in bridging the information gap that exists in rural communities by spreading information relating to COVID-19 are also operating without PPEs.

The Forum reiterates its call on the government to expeditiously distribute donations of PPEs to medical practitioners in the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19 across the country. There is an urgent need to repair, restore, and upgrade all public health hospitals to increase the country’s capacity in the fight against COVID-19.

The Forum also reminds government that all quarantined people must be treated with dignity and be accommodated in places where safety and comfort are guaranteed, where there is clean and potable water, accompanied by good food and other basic commodities. They should be quarantined according to the World Health Organisation’s regulations which uphold and protect the basic human rights of the quarantined individuals.

Summary of violations

The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March 2020 to 12 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 Journalists; 12; Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo
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

Justice Manzunzu of the High Court of Harare issued an interdict prohibiting the Chinhoyi Municipality from demolishing any vending stalls and property belonging to, or used by small and medium enterprises as well as informal vendors at Gadzema Flea Market in Chinhoyi.

The matter was filed on 6 March by Tafadzwa Marimo, Emmanuel Ngwaru, Richard Svosve, Pepukayi Marega and Devis Shopo who operate from Gadzema Flea Market in Chinhoyi. In addition to the Chinhoyi Municipality, the application also cited the Minister of Local Government and Public Works and the Urban councils association as respondents in the matter. The informal traders argued that Circular Minute 3 of 2020 from the Minister of Local government was unlawful because it was issued outside the provisions of applicable laws.

The court also ordered the Chinhoyi Municipality to comply with the provisions of section 32 of the Regional Town and Country Planning Act [Chapter 29:12] as read with section 199 (2) (c) of the Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29:15] which deals with renovations in respect of vending stalls.

Conclusion

The Forum is concerned by the increasing numbers of people defying the regulations of the national lockdown to pursue economic activities without the necessary protective clothing. The Forum urges the government to provide adequate protective clothing for health professionals and other frontline staff. Further, the Forum urges the government to investigate reported cases of corruption by state security officers. The Forum also urges community members to adhere to COVID-19 regulations.

The Forum further calls on the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to take notice of the increase in the number of reports of police officers said to be involved in corruption activities and to act against them.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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