Wednesday 20 May 2020 was day 52 of the national lockdown which was declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and has been in place since 30 March 2020. The lockdown was extended indefinitely on 16 May 2020 and remains on what the President called Level 2 which allows the nation to gradually ease out of the lockdown while minimising the risk of a sudden increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.
On 20 May, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that one thousand two hundred and seventy-three (1 273) tests were conducted. This increased the cumulative tests to thirty-two thousand eight hundred and sixty-two (32 862). Of these, thirty-two thousand eight hundred and fourteen (32 814) were negative. The number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases increased to forty-eight (48) while the recoveries remained at eighteen (18) and the death toll remains at four (4).
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.
On 20 May 2020, President Emmerson Mnangagwa presided over the funeral of the late politician Absolom Sikhosana at the National Heroes Acre. While not as many people as would ordinarily attend a declared national hero’s funeral, it was noted that the numbers of the mourners were still higher than the maximum of fifty (50) prescribed in the lockdown regulations. The President castigated the holding of demonstrations during this COVID-19 induced lockdown but stayed away from condemning the alleged abduction and torture of the Honourable Member of Parliament for Harare West Joana Mamombe together with MDC Alliance Youth Assembly leaders Cecelia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova who were allegedly abducted on 13 May 2020 after a demonstration by the MDC Alliance in Warren Park.
On the same day, Mashonaland Central hosted the visiting Chinese Medical Team at Mvurwi Hospital. Mvurwi has the province’s biggest COVID-19 isolation centre. The team carried out a COVID 19 awareness campaign at Umvukwes Primary School. They also shared their experiences with the local medical teams.
At Solani shopping centre in Epworth in Harare, it was business as usual as vendors were selling their products in the same area where their vending stalls were demolished by the Epworth Local Board. It was reported that vendors were selling their goods up to 7 pm. The current gazetted trading hours are 8 am to 4.30 pm.
In high-density suburbs, army patrols were observed in Highfield, Tafara, Epworth in Harare, St Mary’s in Chitungwiza and Dangamvura in Mutare.
In Matobo, it was reported that most retail shops were open. However, retail shops were not following recommended COVID-19 safety measures, in particular, shopkeepers were not wearing face masks and customers were not observing social distancing. At Holi Resettlement Farm in Matobo, over seventy community members gathered at a funeral where social distance was not observed. It was reported that police officers later dispersed the crowd of mourners.
In Chakari in Mashonaland West, it was reported that there is an increasing number of children who are taking part in artisanal mining activities. This follows the indefinite closure of schools as part of the national lockdown. However, financial problems and redundancy have led to children joining artisanal miners. It was also reported that child prostitution is on the rise in the area following economic challenges affecting people in the area.
The right to water
In Epworth, it was reported that community members are suffering from incessant water shortages. The majority of community members are resorting to using Domboramwari Dam water for domestic use. In most high-density suburbs in Bulawayo, it was reported that community members are receiving tap water once a week. Community boreholes are therefore crowded and community members have resorted to waking up as early as 3 am to fetch water at community boreholes. In Mbare in Harare, chaos and violence are the order of the day at community boreholes. It was further alleged that ZANU PF supporters are given first preference to fetch water at the community boreholes. It was also alleged that suspected ZANU PF youths have taken over control of some community boreholes near Budiriro 2.
Media accreditation update
The Forum documented 14 cases of attacks on journalists in the line of duty. The majority of the cases stemmed from media accreditation cards which expired in 2019. However, the Media Commission had not issued 2020 media accreditation cards as the cost of renewal had not yet been gazetted. The Media Commission has finally published the dates for the renewal of media accreditation cards for journalists. The accreditation process will start from 26 May to 1 July 2020. In the meantime, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has since written to the Media Commission a letter of protest following attempts by the Commission to introduce new categories of registration for 2020.
Mandatory testing and quarantine
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mr Nick Mangwana indicated that 14 returning residence are due to disembark a cruise ship in Cape Town. However, it was reported that the residents have declined to leave the ship stating that they would prefer to be transported to Zimbabwe via a chartered plane instead of a bus provided by the government.
It was reported that Masvingo Rupangwana quarantine centre has 21 people, Masvingo Teachers College now has 279 and Masvingo Polytechnic has 110. The number of street kids quarantined at Mushagashe remains at 20. Therefore the total number of people quarantined in Masvingo is 422.
Quarantine centres in Matabeleland North province have received and processed 471 returnees. Mosi oa Tunya quarantine centre has 251, Lupane State University has 137, and Mabhikwa High School has 83. It was reported that 1 female returnee absconded from Mosi oa Tunya whilst a male returnee absconded from Mabhikwa. Law enforcement officers are searching for the absconded returnees.
The director of Mutare City Council, Dr Mutara facilitated a COVID-19 preparedness workshop at Queens Hall. The workshop was attended by civil society organisations, ZRP officers and the general public. The workshop was prompted by the increasing number of returnees that are quarantined in the province. However, Dr Mutara indicated that Manicaland has only 2 ventilators.
The Right to Education Update
Addressing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education on 20 May, the Primary and Secondary Education Permanent Secretary Mrs Thumisang Thabela reported that candidates registered for ZIMSEC June ordinary and advanced level examinations will sit for examinations between 29 June to 22 July.
Mrs Thabela also indicated that the government has drawn up an opening plan, which will see schools reopen in phases. The phases are as follows: Phase one- examination classes that is form fours, form sixes and grade sevens; Phase two- includes classes writing examinations next year; Phase three-includes all high school students and primary school grades three, four and five; Phase four- includes grades one and two learners; Phase five- all ECD leaners
Mrs Thabela indicated that in circumstances where schools such as Prince Edward and Girls High School which are being used as quarantine centres, learners will have to co-exist with people under quarantine. However, Cabinet has not yet approved the suggested roll-out plan, opening dates will be provided once Cabinet approves the plan.
In Gweru, it was reported that police officers allegedly solicited for bribes from vendors. It was reported that a female vendor was asked to pay USD5 by police officers after they caught her selling chickens. The lady went on to report the case at Mkoba 1 Police Station. The female vendor identified the police officer who had requested for the bribe to the officer in charge. However, the disciplinary actions taken against the police officer are yet to be ascertained.
In Harare, law enforcement officers stepped up efforts of enforcing the lockdown. It was reported that police and army patrols in Harare CBD increased. The vetting of clearance letters by law enforcement officers was also extended beyond checkpoints. Law enforcement officers were also randomly requesting for clearance letters from pedestrians and motorists in the CBD. All passengers in ZUPCO buses travelling to work were requested to disembark from busses to produce clearance letters.
Ward 23 Councillor, Stanley Manyenge attended Harare Central Police Station answering to charges that he had contravened lockdown regulations by taking part in a demonstration held last week in Warren Park. He was also charged with public violence. He was represented by the Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights. The Forum continues to monitor his case.
Update on the abduction and torture of MDC Alliance youth leaders
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 on 14 May. The three were recovered with various injuries consistent with aggravated assault and torture.
The Heads of Mission of the Delegation of the European Union, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden and the Heads of Mission of Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America also issued statements on 20 May on the abduction of Joana Mamombe, along with Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova. The Heads of Missions demanded that the government of Zimbabwe institutes swift, thorough and credible investigations into the abduction and torture of the trio and allegations of the assault on Nokuthula and Ntombizodwa Mpofu in Bulawayo. The Heads of Missions called on the government to prosecute perpetrators of these crimes as the Zimbabwean Constitution prohibits enforced disappearances, torture, violence against women, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The Zimbabwe Gender Commission also issued a statement on 19 May to the effect that the Commission has started investigations relating to the abduction and torture of MPJoana Mamombe together with MDC Alliance Youth Assembly leaders Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova . Based on the preliminary findings of its investigations, the Commission condemned the violence against the trio. The Commission further indicated that it is concerned that the violence was allegedly directed at women leaders and is likely to discourage women’s participation in politics and decision making which the Commission has been actively promoting. The Commission urged the government and law enforcement agents to publicly declare commitment to upholding constitutional provisions in dealing with alleged criminal conduct and to conduct an investigation into circumstances surrounding the case in a transparent and accountable manner to curtail speculation.
Former Deputy Information Minister Energy Mutodi via his official Twitter handle insinuated that Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova were assaulted by their lovers who are illegal miners following an argument over payment of sexual favours in foreign currency. Mutodi wrote the following on his official Twitter account (@energymutodi) on May 20, 2020,
“Details emerge MDC youths Joana Mamombe, Netsai Marova & Cecilia Chimbiri went out for a romantic night to Bindura with their lovers who are artisanal miners. They parked their car at a police station for safety but tragedy struck when they demanded foreign currency for services.”
The Forum condemns such careless statements that amount to hate speech from Dr Mutodi. At a time when the whole country is in shock at the aggravated torture that the trio faced, such watered down and unnecessary statements do not help the victims, their families and the nation at large to heal.
In Chimanimani, eight (8) people were severely assaulted at Wengezi Service Centre by five (5) soldiers and two (2) ZRP officers with baton sticks and sjamboks. It was reported the people were accused of loitering and defying the lockdown by not wearing face masks. It was reported that one of the victims sustained a broken leg and received treatment at Mutambara Hospital. Among the other victims was MDC Alliance Ward 2 Councillor, Thembenkosi Chiororo and MDC Alliance local leader Mr Matengabadza.
Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 20 May 2020.
|Nature of Violation||Number of Victims||Location|
|Assault||253||Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera, Beitbridge, Domboshava, Wengezi|
|Attack on Journalists||333||Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange, Mvurwi|
|Attack on Journalists||14||Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge|
|Malicious Damage to Property||2||Harare, Chitungwiza|
The Forum calls on the government and local authorities to provide potable water for community members since COVID-19 measures require constant hygiene. The Forum also reiterates the respect for human rights and the rule of law as law enforcement officers enforce the lockdown. The Forum reminds the government to institute investigations pertaining to alleged corruption by security personnel.
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)