Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report 16-17 May 2020 – Day 48-49

Introduction

On Saturday 16 May, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the extension of the Level 2 lockdown implemented on 3 May 2020, which was meant to expire on 17 May 2020. The President indicated that Level 2 lockdown will continue indefinitely, to allow the nation to gradually ease out of the lockdown while minimising the risk of sudden spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases. He announced that progress reviews will be conducted fortnightly to assess the progress of the National Preparedness and Response Plan. The President indicated that the extended Level 2 lockdown will be accompanied by the following new measures: Business hours adjusted to 8 am to 430 pm; Public exam classes within schools and final-year students at colleges and universities to be allowed to continue recognising, the stipulated COVID-19 prevention measures. Meanwhile, clear plans of the phased re-opening of schools will continue to be put in place; Mandatory testing of truck drivers and other high-risk populations; Government to increase COVID-19 testing by increasing the PCR testing kits in all provinces; Private sector-run testing and isolation centres are encouraged and will be facilitated in line with the prescribed policies of the Ministry of Health and Child Care; Low-risk sporting activities will be allowed to take place as will be outlined in the statutory instrument operationalising the measures.

The following existing current measures remain: The wearing of face masks, as well as washing of hands or use of sanitizers in all public areas, remains mandatory; Shops and supermarkets will continue to enforce the social distancing of their customers; Citizens are mandated to maintain protective measures including social distancing; Companies to ensure the safety of employees and customers through testing and regular sanitization of premises; 21-day mandatory quarantine of returning residents who will be tested on day 1, 8 and 21; Ban on public gatherings of more than 50 people including gatherings for worship, weddings, funerals, political rallies and other such gatherings; Inter and Intra provincial and district movement remains controlled except for transportation of essential cargo; Only designated food markets shall be permitted to open, meanwhile, consultations on the phased re-opening of the informal sector are still ongoing; Private transport including commuter omnibuses, combis, and unregistered taxies also remain banned, only ZUPCO buses and ZUPCO contracted commuter omnibuses with the stipulated number of passengers are permitted; Bars and gymnasiums remain closed. Restaurants and food outlets are permitted to open only for takeaways and deliveries.

On 17 May, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that nine hundred and fifty (950) tests were conducted. This increased the cumulative tests to twenty-eight thousand and nineteen (28 019). Of these, twenty-seven thousand nine hundred and seventy-five (27 975) were negative. The number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases increased to forty-six (46) while the recoveries increased to eighteen (18). 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 have also been incorporated in this report.

Emerging issues

Lockdown Defiance

As the nation braced for the announcement on the status of the lockdown beyond 17 May, there was a sharp increase of lockdown defiance across the country. Worryingly, reported cases of the lockdown defiance related more to leisure as opposed to the pursuit of basic commodities and food. It was reported that in Mberengwa, beerhalls were open at River Terrains shopping complex. The beerhalls attracted community members from the area who were observed sharing opaque beer and not exercising social distancing. In the same vein, it was reported that in Chimanimani, soldiers from Rufuka training base have been frequenting local beerhalls and demanding that shop owners open their beerhalls. It was reported that on 15 of May, soldiers overturned the order by police officers who had ordered the closure of one of the beerhalls that soldiers were drinking from. In Chivi, it was reported there were increased numbers of people gathering at beerhalls. It was reported that patrons of some of the beerhalls were not exercising social distancing and they were observed exchanging cups of alcohol.

In Birchenough, private commuter omnibuses were observed ferrying people to Chipinge and Chimanimani. It was reported that most of the commuter omnibuses were not taking note of COVID-19 measures particularly relating to the number of passengers allowed in each vehicle.

Food aid and donations

In Tsholotsho, it was reported that the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare conducted an enumeration process for beneficiaries of the COVID-19 food relief program. It was reported that the food relief program was targeting people with disabilities and the elderly.

Destruction of vending stalls

It was reported that the Harare City Council demolished vending stalls in Hatcliffe. This follows the nationwide demolition of vending stalls after the Ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development on 8 April directed local authorities to use the lockdown to “clean up and renovate small and medium enterprise and informal traders’ workspaces”. Such demolitions are continuing inspite of the existence of at at least two court orders by Justices Jacob Manzunzu and Nyaradzo Priscilla Munangati in which they ordered local authorities in Epworth, Chitungwiza and Chinhoyi to stop demolitions.

Abuse of Power

In Muzarabani, it was reported that a man from Mudoka village under Chief Sekete was forced to pay a solicited bribe by a soldier known as Jonah Nyamutundu. It was reported that the victim was caught drinking alcohol in public without wearing a face mask. It was further reported that the soldier then threatened to assault the man for defying the lockdown if he did not pay him ZWL300. The victim was released by the soldier after paying ZWL300.

Mandatory Quarantine

In Lupane, it was reported that twenty-two (22) returnees who are at quarantined at Mabhikwa High School in Lupane complained of lack of food in the quarantine facilities. At Lupane State University one of the people from the quarantine centre escaped from the facilities and was later traced and apprehended by solidiers and was taken back to quarantine.

Assault

In Harare, it was reported that police officers assaulted four (4) people in Highfield at Gazaland for not wearing face masks. It was reported that the four (4) people were assaulted with baton sticks after they were caught at Shirichena Shopping Centre.

It was also reported that soldiers allegedly assaulted a member of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) in Domboshava with sticks. It was alleged that the ARTUZ member realised that ZANU PF members were buying subsidised roller meal at night. When she joined the queue to buy the roller meal, about six (6) soldiers assaulted her indiscriminately as she was accused of spying. She sustained injuries to her face, right hand and left leg.

Arrest

In Mazowe, police officers arrested nine (9) people for not wearing their face masks. The arrested persons were taken to Mvurwi police station where they were detained for more than 3 hours in a crowded space that did not allow social distancing for the arrested persons. It was further reported that the arrested persons were later released after paying an admission of guilt fine of ZWL500.

Missing Persons Update

In Harare, MDC Alliance Harare West Member of Parliament Joana Mamombe and Youth Assembly leaders Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova who went missing on 13 May in a case of abduction, were located dumped in Bindura. The three were recovered on 15 May with various injuries consistent with aggravated assault and torture, and were checked into a medical facility in the company of lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, police officers, and officials from the party.

Through a statement issued on 17 May, the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Kazembe Kazembe directed the Commissioner General of Police to institute full scale investigations into the abduction and assault of the three MDC Alliance supporters. He further indicated that law enforcement officers have been directed to investigate exactly what happened after the flash demonstration in Warren Park by MDC Alliance members. Minister Kazembe indicated that the investigation will also address the media coverage of the story to iron out grey areas for the benefit of the public and in the process reveal the correct circumstances in the whole matter.

Summary of violations

The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 17 May 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault245Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera, Beitbridge, Domboshava
Attack on Journalists12Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo
Arrests333Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange, Mvurwi
Malicious Damage to Property2Harare, Chitungwiza
Missing persons/Abductions3Harare

Court update

Chief Trymore Nhari of Gweru and Shephard Moyo served a notice of intention to sue for payment of damages on the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage. This action was filed following their assault by police officers. Each of them is claiming ZWL 300 000 in damages.

Another citizen, Weston Chadoma has also served a notice of intention to sue for the sum of ZWL$300 000.00 as compensation for unlawful assault by a Zimbabwe National Army officer in Bulawayo. The Respondents are the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Minister of Defence and War Veterans and the Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army.

Another citizen, Sthukani Ncube of Lobengula Bulawayo has also filed a tice of intention to sue the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage for being severely assaulted by eight police officers. She is claiming the sum of ZWL$250 000.00 for pain and suffering.

Conclusion

The lockdown extension comes at a time when confirmed COVID-19 cases are on the rise. The lockdown extension is a positive move towards curbing the spreading of COVID-19. However, the economic impact of the protracted lockdown on the majority of Zimbabweans who are informal traders should be the government’s focus. The greater part of informal trades including commuter omnibus operators and vendors remain banned. The Forum, therefore, calls on the government to fast-track consultations on the reopening of the informal sector to alleviate poverty.

The President announced that the country will continue on lockdown level 2 for an indefinite period, and this will be reviewed fortnightly. In the light of this, the Forum strongly urges the government to ensure that law enforcement officers execute their duties with respect to fundamental rights of citizens. Measures must be put in place to ensure that the police do not continue to use excessive force when enforcing the lockdown.

The Forum is also concerned that the measures that government has put in place to cushion vulnerable communities against the social impact of the lockdown remain inadequate and not properly coordinated.

The Forum further urges community members to adhere to COVID-19 regulations, and to remain resilient in fighting the pandemic.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Right NGO Forum (HRForum)

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