Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report 27 May 2020 – Day 59

Introduction

On Wednesday 27 May 2020 which was day 59 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and has been in place since 30 March 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported a sudden surge of the number of confirmed cases to one hundred and thirty-two (132) after seventy-six (76) new cases were recorded in Beitbridge, Masvingo and Harare. The number of cumulative tests done stood at thirty-eight thousand six hundred and fifty-six (38 656). Of these, thirty-eight thousand five hundred and twenty-four (38 524) were negative. The country has twenty-five (25) recoveries and the death toll remains 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 into this report.

Emerging issues

General updates

In Highfield in Harare, it was reported that ZANU PF members were collecting names of beneficiaries of the upcoming food distributions by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. It has also been reported that MDC Alliance collected names of their supporters for the same reasons and the names were submitted to the legislator Happymore Chidziva.

Chipinge Town Council continued with the demolition of illegal structures including vending stalls and houses built in wetlands and other undesignated areas. As a result of the demolitions, over 22 households and over 80 people including children were left homeless.

Lockdown enforcement

At the Glenview Complex in Harare, informal traders mainly consisting of carpenters were raided police officers. This later resulted in running battles between the informal traders and police officers. However, three (3) of the informal traders were later apprehended though the majority of them escaped arrest by the police. The arrested persons were taken to Highfields Police Station where they were released without charge. In Highfields, anti-riot police raided vendors and informal traders at Gazaland. Police officers were also patrolling and dispersing people loitering and vendors in most parts of Highfields following the defiance of the lockdown in the area. It also reported that police officers raided illicit bars and dispersed patrons in the suburb.

Right to water

In Epworth in Harare, it was reported that the area has been hard hit by water rationing. Residents have been relying on water from the local quarry dam while some have resorted to walking over 5 km to Glenwood suburb to fetch water. Community members have to wake up at 4 am to access water from the community boreholes. Similar incidences of water shortages have also been reported from Chitungwiza, most high-density suburbs in Bulawayo and in Gweru.

Mandatory testing and quarantine

According to the National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi through a statement, a total of 118 people have escaped from various isolation centres throughout the country since the onset of the national lockdown. He reported that some of the people have been arrested whilst the majority of the people are being sought by the police. He added that some returnees from neighbouring countries were using undesignated points of entry to avoid immigration formalities and quarantine. According to Mr Nick Mangwana, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, eighteen (18) returnees were reportedly ‘missing’ from Mkoba Teachers College Quarantine Centre in Gweru. Mangwana also advised that local traditional leaders and local authorities have been enlisted to help in reporting known absconders from quarantine centres and illegal returnees to authorities. He also indicated that security is being tightened at quarantine facilities to ensure that returnees do not escape. However, reports indicate that food shortages and overcrowding were threatening the stay of returnees in quarantine centres.

Re-opening of academic institutions

Seven (7) teachers’ unions jointly petitioned the Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema to stop the re-opening of schools until COVID-19 is effectively contained. In the event that the pandemic is contained, the teachers put forward 15 demands they want the government to meet to guarantee their safety. The petition was signed by the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association, Zimbabwe Democratic Teachers’ Union (ZIMTA), Zimbabwe National Teachers’ Union (ZINATU), Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (TUZ) and the Zimbabwe National Educators’ Union (ZINEU). The petition followed an announcement by the government last week that consultations for the reopening of schools with key stakeholders were in progress. The teachers set the following conditions for schools re-opening: Open churches, bars and weddings first before schools to assess the contagious effect of gatherings of fifty or more people; Ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic is totally under control before taking the steps of opening of schools; Ensure the verifiable fumigation of all schools before they open as well as at regular intervals thereafter. Schools that are currently used as quarantine zones should go through rigorous fumigation and confirmed safe by competent personnel in the Ministry of Health and Childcare; Ensure the rapid testing of all pupils and teachers before schools open for business and provision of the same at regular intervals; Pay an acceptable risk allowance to teachers as in essence they are frontline workers in the education system; Capacitate teachers in identifying and handling Covid-19 in case of infections or reinfections in schools; Postpone ZIMSEC June examinations until it’s verifiably safer to write them; Consider and assess the impact of returnees from high-risk countries flocking back at the moment, both through official and illegal means; Enable the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to establish a task force comprising teacher unions, health and education officials to carry out Covid-19 risk assessment in schools; Take cognisance of the effects of the cold season we are entering as it quickens infection rates of this type of epidemic; Reduce teacher-pupil ratio to 1:20 through employing more teachers urgently; Supply PPEs, test kits, thermometers and sanitizers to all 10 000 schools. These should be adequate enough for 4.6 million students, 136 000 teachers, and ancillary staff; Ensure uninterrupted provision of safe running water for all schools; Ensure through the line Ministry that every pupil has at least 3 washable and safe masks; Stop the use of teaching and learning facilities for political gatherings or any unnecessary congregations in order to minimize the risk of infection of teachers, ancillary staff and learners; Test samples of masks and sanitisers produced for use by teachers and learners to ascertain if they meet the standard requirements as stipulated by WHO or the Ministry of Health and Childcare; Pay teachers’ salaries that resonate with their 2018 salaries of US$520 or its inter-bank rate equivalent in order to restore salaries’ purchasing power parity that has been eroded by conversion to local currency, together with the attendant inflation; and Provide a workable plan for teachers with pre-existing medical conditions in order to reduce or eliminate their possible exposure to COVID-19.and also demanded US520 minimum salary or its interbank rate equivalent.

The teachers’ unions also added that the opening of schools was premature and was not according to World Health Organisation guidelines.
In preparation for the reopening of schools, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, speaking to Parliament for the ad hoc Inter-ministerial Taskforce on COVID-19, stated that hostels and student accommodation that are currently being used at several schools and colleges to quarantine returning citizens and residents will be refurbished and fumigated before schools resume. She added that institutions such as churches, vocational centres and national youth training centres will be used as quarantine centres.

Abduction update

MDC Alliance Harare West Member of Parliament Honourable Joana Mamombe and Youth Assembly leaders Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova who went missing on 13 May and were later located dumped in Bindura on 14 May appeared before Harare magistrate Mrs Barbara Mateko for bail proceedings on 27 May at Parktown Hospital. The three were remanded in custody at the hospital to 28 May for ruling on the amount of bail and bail conditions. Mamombe, Chimbiri and Marova, who were represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights lawyers, Jeremiah Bamu and Roselyn Hanzi and were not asked to plead.

ZANU PF Acting Spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa called for a press conference on 27 May indicated that ZANU PF questions the logic in arresting three (3) ladies and leaving out known activists who led the demonstrations. According to Chinamasa, the timing of the abduction came at a time when the President of Zimbabwe had important diplomatic meetings in the country. Chinamasa added that the failure to comply with the lockdown regulations by the trio is a sign that the abduction is a theatrical act meant to divert attention from squabbles in between the MDC parties and to cover up for the illegal and dangerous demonstrations in Warren Park.

Transport challenges

Transport challenges have been growing as the formal economy joins essential services in being exempted from the lockdown. Addressing Parliament on behalf of the ad hoc Inter-ministerial Taskforce on COVID-19, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, stated that the ZUPCO fleet of buses and combis has been increased by 800 to meet the public’s growing demand for transport. However, transport challenges continue to affect community members commuting to work in all major cities and towns across Zimbabwe.

Arrests

In Lupane, a man was arrested at Zapalala Wholesale after he was suspected of illegal foreign currency trading. He was arrested and detained at Lupane Police Station where he was fined ZWL500.

Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 27 May 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault258Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera, Beitbridge, Domboshava, Wengezi
Attack on Journalists16Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge
Arrests370Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange, Murwi
Malicious Damage to Property2Harare, Chitungwiza
Abductions3Harare

Court Update

Justice Mary Dube of the High Court in Harare dismissed an urgent application filed by the Zimbabwe Chamber for Informal Workers Association (ZCIWA), the Passenger Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) and Chitungwiza resident Mr Constantine Chaza. The Applicants were seeking an urgent interim order allowing informal trade to resume. The applicants argued that the difference in treatment by the government for the informal sector and the formal sector was discriminatory under the lockdown regulations and thus violated the applicants right to freedom of profession, trade and occupation. Also, it was argued that the lockdown regulations were not applied reasonably and that by banning the operations of privately owned commuter omnibuses the government had created an unlawful monopoly for ZUPCO.

In dismissing the application Justice Mary Dube stated that the restrictions to fundamental rights to movement and to freedom of profession, trade and occupation were rational, reasonable and justifiable under the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. She disagreed that there was discrimination against privately-owned commuter omnibuses and bus operators as they could operate under the umbrella of ZUPCO. The Judge stated that the restrictions imposed on the operations were in pursuance of a legitimate purpose which was to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Conclusion

The sudden increase in COVID-19 cases amid the introduction of level 2 of the national lockdown and the increasing defiance by community members to adhere to COVID-19 regulations in pursuit of economic activities, is worrying. Though the majority of the confirmed COVID-19 cases are returnees in quarantine centres, the increasing numbers of returnees circumventing the mandatory quarantine is a growing concern. Further, the high number of confirmed COVID-19 cases also begs the question of the effectiveness of preventative measures implemented by the government to stop peer to peer transmission in quarantine centres. In this regard, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum calls upon law enforcement agencies to increase surveillance, especially at quarantine centres to curb the likely transmission of COVID-19 cases from returnees absconding mandatory quarantine. The Forum also calls on the Ministry of Health and Child Care to ensure that isolation centres are not a platform for the spread of COVID-19. The Ministry of Health and Child Care should also adequately track confirmed community infections to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Given the increasing risk of contracting COVID-19 as a result of the shortage of transportation, the Forum reiterates the calls for the government to provide adequate transportation for citizens . This will help in decongesting bus terminus in town centres and in the suburbs. The introduction of adequate transport will also minimise the risk of travellers resorting to using trucks and overcrowding private vehicles.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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