Thursday 21 May 2020 was day 53 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 21 May, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that one thousand eight hundred and forty-five (1 845) tests were conducted. This increased the cumulative tests to thirty-four thousand seven hundred and seven (34 707). Of these, thirty-two thousand eight hundred and fourteen (34 656) were negative. The number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases increased to fifty-one (51) 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.
In the Glen Norah suburb of Harare, it was reported that bottle stores were open at Chitubu Shopping centre. Reports claimed that most of the bottle stores are attracting crowds of patrons since most of the informal traders, and touts are redundant. It was further reported that bottle store owners are paying bribes to police officers to avoid getting arrested for defying the lockdown.
The Chipinge Town Council circulated a schedule for demolitions of vending stalls and illegal structures to be conducted on 22 May 2020. The circular highlighted that tuckshops, kiosks, canteens and outside toilet shacks are some of the structures that will be destroyed.
Right to food
In Gwanda North, it was reported that a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), Africare, distributed food aid to vulnerable groups including childheaded families and the elderly. It was reported that Gwanda community members indicated that they had not received food aid from the government as part of the COVID-19 relief food aid program. Community members observed social distance and most of them wore homemade masks and scarfs.
In Tsholotsho, it was reported that Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare was conducting food distributions under Headman Matupula. However, it was reported that beneficiaries were requested to pay ZWL30 to the headman as processing fee for them to receive food aid from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. The food aid consisted of maize.
It was reported that ZANU PF distributed food hampers sourced by the Muduvuri Rehabilitation and Empowerment Foundation (MREF) and Global Brothers Wholesalers in Manicaland. The initiative was part of an ongoing exercise to cushion people with disabilities from the effects of COVID-19. The ceremony was officiated by ZANU PF national chair Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri.
Chitungwiza Municipality instructed a good Samaritan, Samantha Murozoki, to shut down a soup kitchen which she was running to assist the less privileged. According to Samantha Murozoki, on day 35 of her soup kitchen, 516 children were served porridge, 1610 people were served supper. According to the instruction by the Chitungwiza municipality’s directive, Samantha Murozoki’s soup kitchen is not registered with the council in accordance with the Chitungwiza Urban Council by-laws 1981 part 2 section 6 and she did not have a municipal license for the operations that she was conducting. The closure was followed by a public outcry with members of the public arguing that given the current food challenges relating to the COVID-19 national lockdown the Municipality should help her regularise her activities whilst she continues to assist the less privileged. Acting Chitungwiza town clerk, Dr Tonderai Kasu issued a statement justifying the closure of the kitchen. Council appreciated Ms Muzoroki for her love. The town clerk, however, justified the order for Ms Muzoroki to cease operations on the basis of some genuine and legitimate concerns with respect to public health and public safety. Council undertook to assist Ms Muzoroki to comply.
Mandatory testing and quarantine
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mr Nick Mangwana indicated that 2 quarantine centres were opened in at Mount Selinda High School and Chipinge Junior School. Cumulatively, Chipinge now has 4 isolation centres namely, Chipinge District Hospital, Mt Selinda Hospital, Tongogara Clinic and St Peters Clinic.
In Mashonaland Central, at Madziwa Teachers College quarantine centre, the Ministry of Health and Child Care has approved the release of the first 20 returnees admitted into the facility. Meanwhile, authorities in Kwekwe have resorted for an alternative isolation centre after foreign students at Kwekwe Polytechnic College petitioned their embassies over the use of the institution as an isolation centre. Students from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Equatorial Guinea who failed to travel to their respective countries following the outbreak of COVID-19 are still residing at Kwekwe Polytechnic College. The students, through their embassies, argued that they could be potential victims if they were allowed to mix with returnees quarantined at Kwekwe Polytechnic College.
It was reported that two Malawian border jumpers who tested positive to COVID-19 during profiling and screening at the Beitbridge quarantine and isolation centre located at the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) Hotel escaped on 21 May. One of the escapees was intercepted by security agents as he sought transport to Malawi at the closed Dulivadzimu long-distance bus terminus. His accomplice remains unaccounted for. To date, 29 people have escaped from the Beitbridge quarantine and isolation centre
The Right to Education Update
Some teachers unions have raised concern over the planned re-opening of schools as advised by the Secretary for Primary and Secondary Education Mrs Thumisang Thabela on 20 May. According to Mrs Thabela, the mid-year Zimsec examinations are expected to be written between June 29 and July 22. However, teachers’ unions indicated that the time period of the reopening of schools is too early and it is likely that proper safety measures might not be ready in time. According to teachers unions, learners might not be in the right psychological space to write examinations as they are fearing for their lives, so are the teachers. Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president, Mr Obert Masaraure, said the June examinations should be written when conditions are right.
Law enforcement officers scaled-up efforts to enforce the national lockdown nationally. With the increase in deployment and enforcement of the lockdown, issues such as abuse by police officers and corruption have also been on the rise. In Uzumba, at Katiyo Business Centre it was reported that patrols by police officers and soldiers were on the increase. In Chegutu, it was reported that law enforcement officers were reportedly soliciting for bribes from community members caught defying the lockdown.
In Glenview, it was reported that ZRP officers were chasing vendors at Churu shopping centre. It was also reported that most beerhalls at Glenview complex were paying bribes to police officers. It was also reported that the heavy presence of police officers and soldiers had also increased in Glenview.
It was reported that unidentified people in civilian clothing who were claiming to be police officers in Sunningdale were spotted raiding vendors at flea markets. It was reported that the people also confiscated goods and wares of vendors.
In Chitungwiza at Chigovanyika Shopping Centre, a woman was injured whilst trying to flee from armed soldiers who were chasing away vendors and informal traders. It was reported that the woman sustained a broken right leg.
In Gweru, five (5) people were arrested for defying the lockdown by loitering without face masks. It was reported that the arrested persons were taken to Mkoba 6 Police Station where they were later released after paying an admission of guilt fine of ZWL200 each.
Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 21 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||14||Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge|
|Arrests||338||Masvingo, 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 Property||2||Harare, Chitungwiza|
Five (5) victims of police brutality during the COVID-19 lockdown have instructed the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum to sue the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Commissioner General of Police, Minister of Defence, Security and War Veterans and Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) for damages, shock, pain and suffering. One of the victims is also suing for loss of property after she lost her cellphone, a Samsung J4 smartphone to Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) officers in Chitungwiza.
Ms. Dorothy Kambara, an eight (8) months pregnant woman was assaulted by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers at OK supermarket in Kuwadza 5 Shopping Centre, Harare on the 27th of April 2020. She was in a queue to purchase mealie meal when four (4) ZRP Police officers in ZRP uniform disembarked from a truck and assaulted people in the queue with baton sticks randomly without warning. Kambara sustained injuries on her back and on the side of her pregnant belly as a result of the assault. She is suing the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police for the pain and embarrassment she suffered as a result of this assault.
Also suing the police is Mr Levison Bangoma who was assaulted by ZRP officers at Karoi Police Station. On 13 April 2020, at about 9:00 am, Bangoma was going about his business in Chikangwe neighbourhood in Karoi when two police officers who were in police uniform approached him. They questioned him on his business in the area. The ZRP officers took him to Karoi Police Station where he was assaulted with baton sticks. He is suing the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage and the Commissioner-General of Police for pain he suffered and the embarrassment caused by the assault.
Highfields resident Mr Magutu Tsungisai who was assaulted by ZRP officers and Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) officers at his home in Highfields, Harare also joins the list of those suing. On 10 April 2020, at or about 10:00am, Tsungisai was indoors at his home in Highfields when two ZRP Officers in ZRP uniform and one ZNA officer in ZNA uniform unlawfully entered his home. One of the ZRP Police officers proceeded to assault him with a baton stick on his head and back without warning. He sustained injuries as a result of this assault. He is suing the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Commissioner of Police, Minister of Defence, Security and War Veterans Affairs and the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces for the pain, shock and suffering he endured and damages for embarrassment.
Mr Zivanai Timire is suing the Minister of Defence, Security and War Veterans Affairs and the Commander Zimbabwe Defense Forces for the pain, shock and suffering he endured after he was assaulted by ZNA officers at Unit L, Seke Chitungwiza. On 30 April 2020, at 11:00am, Timire had visited a house which is near Unit L shopping centre to buy some chickens to cook for food. Suddenly a ZNA truck arrived with ZNA officers in uniforms. The said ZNA officers disembarked that vehicle and began to randomly assault everyone who was nearby. He was assaulted with a baton stick on his right leg in the process. He was injured and sought medical attention at Chitungwiza General Hospital.
Ms Tariro Machaya is suing both the Ministers of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage and that of Defence, War Veterans Affairs as well as the Commissioner-General of Police, together with the Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces for loss of property. Machaya was going about her business on 13 April 2020 when she saw a truck which had both ZRP and ZNA officers who were uniformed and armed with baton sticks. They disembarked out of that vehicle and proceeded to unlawfully take a Samsung J4 cell phone from her with force and never returned it.
The Forum is concerned by the increasing number of returnees who are absconding isolation centres. Returnees absconding isolation centres have become a risk factor for the spread of COVID-19 given that the majority of COVID-19 confirmed cases are returnees. The Forum, therefore, calls on the government to strengthen security at COVID-19 isolation centres. The Forum further calls on the government to increase food aid distribution to assist vulnerable groups. The Forum reiterates that the government should institute investigations pertaining to alleged corruption by security personnel.
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)