Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report: 14 May 2020 – Day 46

Introduction

The nation is now gripped with anxiety, with three days to go before the expiry of the extended lockdown measures on 17 May 2020. Government is yet to advise the nation on the next steps. 14 May 2020 marked day 46 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

On 14 May, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that nine hundred and sixty-three (963) tests were conducted and were all negative. This increased the cumulative tests to twenty-four thousand eight hundred and ninety (24 890). Of these, twenty-four thousand eight hundred and fifty-three (24 853) were negative. The number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases remains at thirty-seven (37) while the recoveries have increased to thirteen (13). Deaths remain at four (4).

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 and the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) have also been incorporated in this report.

Emerging issues

Allocation of vending stalls

Following the demolition of vending stalls nationally, on the directive of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development on 8 April, some vendors in Gweru were gathered at Gweru Theatre where the local authority was allocating new vending sites. The vendors reportedly had to pay a renewable allocation fee of ZWL75 for the allocation of these new vending sites.

In Bulawayo, the Bulawayo City Council introduced decentralised bulk fresh produce markets which started operating on 13 May. Five fresh produce distribution hubs at Sekusile Shopping Center in Nkulumane, Emganwini Mupedzanhamo, Old Pumula Vegetables Market, New Magwegwe Market, and Cowdray Park Bus Terminus Market were allocated to vendors after the demolitions of their vending stalls.

Access to food and food aid

Shortage of mealie meal continue to affect communities. Retail shops in areas such as Magwegwe in Bulawayo, have run out of mealie meal. Other retail shops that still have the precious commodity are now selling exclusively in foreign currency. The government through the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) is distributing subsidised mealie meal to communities nationally. However, the greater number of people still cannot afford to buy mealie meal at the subsidised prices of ZWL70 per 10kg bag. Some retail shop owners have indicated that they have not received subsidised mealie meal for the past 3 weeks.

In Bulawayo, the Bulawayo COVID-19 Task Force donated food hampers to the eleven (11) people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Bulawayo. This was triggered by the stigma and related challenges being faced by these community members who are isolated at home their homes.

According to the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Paul Mavhima, the government is yet to distribute monies under the COVID-19 relief fund for vulnerable people to all identified beneficiaries. Under the fund, identified beneficiaries would receive ZWL200 per family. The Minister indicated that the government has raised the allocation from ZWL200 to ZWL300 per family, in light of inflation.

Access to water

In Bulawayo, the Bulawayo City Council issued a public notice notifying residents of the decommissioning of the Lower Ncema dam. This dam which is at 6.49% capacity, will be decommissioned on 15 May. This brings to three (3) out of six (6) dams that are decommissioned in Bulawayo. The City had already been struggling to meet the daily water demand, and with the decommission of another dam, the situation will become direr. The City has been water shedding since February 2019, with progressive intensity. Currently water is shed under a 120-hour regime, meaning the city has water one (1) day a week.

Lockdown enforcement

In light of the increased defiance of the lockdown regulations by community members nationally, increased reports of police patrols and clampdown on defiant community members were received. Increased police patrols were observed in Chimanimani, Nyanga, Karoi, Masvingo, Triangle, and Gokwe. In Gweru, it was reported that police officers mounted another checkpoint at the Gweru River to check for exemption letters. Police and army officers were also raiding homes and shops which were suspected of selling alcohol illegally and after the stipulated time for the closure of business. Police officers also conducted raids for illicit bars at Karambazungu Township in Hurungwe. No arrests made following these raids.

At Coca-Cola check point along Seke Road in Harare, passengers coming from Chitungwiza were ordered to disembark some ZUPCO buses for the police to check for exemption letters allowing for travel. Those who did not have exemption letters for various reasons were reportedly compelled to pay bribes to the police officers for them to proceed. Those who refused to pay bribes were turned back. Given the current transport challenges, some of them were forced to walk back to Chitungwiza.

In a seemingly new enforcement strategy, police officers at the checkpoint were allegedly checking for the quality of face masks. Individuals with home-made masks that did not meet the self-defined standards of some of the overzealous police officers were also turned back.

Lockdown defiance

In Gwanda, some community members defied the lockdown for leisure. It was reported that some bottle stores were operating up to 10pm. Similar defiance was observed in Magwegwe, with people consuming alcohol outside certain shops.

The Sports and Recreation Commission through a statement issued on 14 May indicated that sports and recreational activities remain banned. This comes after reports of community members engaging in sporting activities including soccer, volleyball, and netball have been on the increase nationally.

Returnees and mandatory quarantine updates

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mr Nick Mangwana reported that 395 Zimbabwean returnees left Gaborone, Botswana for Plumtree on 14 May. Among the returnees are 15 ex-convicts who were pardoned by the President of Botswana.

COVID-19 and the mining sector

Through the 3rd edition of the COVID-19: Mining Sector and Communities’ Situational Report, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) reported as follows:

The Economic Rescue and Stimulus Package of ZWL1 billion announced by the President on 1 May to support large and small scale miners is yet to be disbursed to the mining sector. The report notes that the scheme appears to exclude artisanal miners despite their gold going to Fidelity Printers and Refineries.

In Mazowe, artisanal miners are finding it difficult to comply with social distancing rules. The artisanal miners are not respecting COVID-19 regulations and they are working as usual. In areas where gold rushes occur, social distancing is ignored. At Bhinyapi Mine in Matabeleland South’s Insiza District, COVID-19 regulations on social distancing were largely ignored and violated when there was a gold rush. The area is now overcrowded and there are fears that the coronavirus might easily spread if the situation is not controlled.

In Bubi there were reports of people who invaded gold claims at night to steal money, gold, and mining equipment. New cases of machete gold gangs and criminals were also reported in Maphisa in Matabeleland on 2 May where a group of seven raided Good Cow Mine armed with machetes and axes and took away 12 x 50 kg bags of gold ore. The police confirmed the arrest of the gangs.

At Anjin Diamond Mine in Marange, workers reported that no efforts are being made by managers to educate workers on social distancing at the mine sites or living quarters. As for transportation, workers are ferried in overcrowded open trucks to their workstations. In terms of accommodation, one (1) room is accommodating four (4) workers with some using bunk beds, which defeats social distancing. Workers are said to be given sub-standard disposable face masks which are not the recommended N95 and not suitable for mining purposes. Some workers are not using the face masks, while some repeatedly reuse the masks, causing a health hazard.

Assault

In Highfield, Harare four (4) police officers assaulted six (6) people in Lusaka for allegedly defying the lockdown by congregating and drinking alcohol. It was alleged that the officers on patrol raided a house where youths from the area were drinking alcohol and not wearing face mask. The victims were assaulted with baton sticks and the police officers confiscated the alcohol.

Missing Persons

In Harare, MDC Alliance Harare West Member of Parliament Joana Mamombe and two other female MDC Alliance youth leaders Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova were reported to have been arrested at a checkpoint near the National Sports Stadium in Harare for allegedly participating in a demonstration in Warren Park. It was reported that the trio was detained at Harare Central Police Station Law and Order Section. However, their lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) indicated that the trio was missing, having searched for the trio at various police stations in the capital to no avail.

At about 11pm on 14 May, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) updated that it had received information that the missing trio had been dumped in Bindura South. Reports indicate that the trio sustained injuries consistent with aggravated assault and torture.

Summary of violations

The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March 2020 to 14 May 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault238Harare, 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
Missing persons/Abductions3Harare

Court update

The families of the three MDC Alliance youth leaders who were missing, filed an habeas corpus application before the High Court seeking to compel the Zimbabwe Republic Police members to investigate and determine the whereabouts of the missing persons and report within 12 hours of the granting of the order. However, before the application could be finalised reports emerged during the evening that the three missing women were found in Bindura South severely injured and traumatised.

Conclusion

The lockdown extension as announced by the President will end on 17 May. As we draw close to the end of the extended lockdown, the volatile political environment is becoming a risk factor for the spread of COVID-19. In light of the above, the Forum: strongly condemns the wanton disregard of human rights exhibited through the enforced disappearance, torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova. The Forum calls on the government and security forces to thoroughly investigate the incident and to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable; calls on the government to intervene for mining companies to provide personal protective equipment for miners including face masks, gloves, safety shoes, and protective clothing; is concerned with the increasing numbers of people defying the national lockdown to pursue leisure activities, and calls upon community members to adhere to COVID-19 regulations; urges the government to speed up the process of providing food aid to vulnerable groups.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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