Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report 29 to 30 May 2020 – Days 61 and 62

Introduction

On Saturday 30 May 2020 marked was day 62 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 an increase in the number of confirmed cases to one hundred and seventy-four (174). The number of cumulative tests done stood at forty-four thousand six hundred and thirty-five (44 635). Of these, forty-four thousand four hundred and sixty-one (44 461) were negative. The number of recoveries also increased to twenty-nine (29) 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

Fast-Jet Airlines Zimbabwe has announced that it has been licenced to carry out repatriation flights between Zimbabwe and South Africa. It will carry stranded passengers from both countries and will comply with all lockdown regulations of the respective countries. However, the airline did not say when exactly it would commence the flights.

Godfrey Tsenengamu, the leader of the newly-established Front for Economic Emancipation in Zimbabwe, on 28 May sought clearance from police to protest at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development offices over the alleged corruption in the procurement of COVID-19 equipment through Drax International. Tsenengamu indicated that the protest will consist of 45 who will respect all the COVID-19 lockdown measures. The police have not yet responded to the request.

At Kandava Business Centre in Mashonaland East Province, shops and bottle stores remained open beyond the stipulated trading hours. In Gutu west in Chatsworth at Jacobsdale farm people were drinking opaque beer and were not observing any social distancing. Other people came from nearby farms to drink beer at Matanda in Chatsworth.

In Dangamvura in Mutare, residents complained about transport challenges that have left them stranded such that people have been walking long distances to get to their destinations. Residents also complained that the process of getting travel permits and exemption letters particularly from the police was strenuous and resulting in most people paying bribes to access them.

In Muzvezve in the Mashonaland West Province, villagers were gathered at Biti Secondary School to buy subsidised mealie meal. The mealie meal was being sold at ZW70. The former ZANU PF councillor, Mrs Chikoto was in charge of the process. Villagers were required to bring national identity cards and ZANU PF party membership cards. Those who did not have ZANU PF membership cards were registered as members on the spot while those who refused to be registered were turned away and denied acces to the subsidised mealie-meal.

In Bikita, there was a funeral in ward 8 which was attended by more than 80 people. Most of the people gathered were not wearing face masks.

On 29 May 2020 in Harare, it was business as usual at Siya-So and Magaba in Mbare. Fruit and vegetable vendors, clothing and shoe traders have opened up their businesses. It was also business as usual at in Gazaland Shopping Centre in Highfield where vendors and enforcement officers fought running battles in the last few days.

In Bulawayo, Mpilo Central Hospital imposed an indefinite ban on patients’ visit after recording four COVID-19 cases in a single day earlier in the week. Those infected are reported to include a nurse at the hospital.

President Mnangagwa ordered the reconstruction of Plumtree High School dining hall which was gutted by fire on 28 May. The President assigned Minister of Local Government and Public Works July Moyo and the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Mangaliso Ndlovu to assess the damage. Plumtree High School is being used to quarantine Zimbabweans returning home from Botswana. However, the cause of the fire is still not established.

Lockdown enforcement

In Bulawayo, it was reported that commuter omnibuses not operating under the ZUPCO franchise were slowly reappearing. It was noted that even some South African registered combis had joined the fray in ferrying people illegally. There was concern that those operating illegally were flouting not only road regulations but also the social distancing policy as some of the combis were carrying as many as 20 passengers. It was also noted that lorries were now also offering transport and were not maintaining social distance. The role of the police in all this has now been questioned as all these illegal transporters are passing through police checkpoints. This has raised suspicion that the police are being bribed.

In Marondera, members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CIDs) were seen going around the shops in town asking for shop licences. Most operators stated that this was a surprise as ordinarily this is done by municipal police. Some of the operators made allegations of bribes being solicited from them for either not having the shop licences or in situations where they had shop licences, the officers from CID demanded radio licences.

It was reported that a woman sustained serious injuries during street battles between vendors and law enforcement agents in Chitungwiza. Reports claimed that the individual sustained a serious fracture on her ankle. The injured woman was being chased by police officers and soldiers received treatment at Chitungwiza Hospital.

Mandatory testing and quarantine

Fourteen (14) Malawi citizens, who included a pregnant woman staged a 3-day hunger strike at Masvingo Teacher’s College Quarantine Center in protest of their prolonged detention. The 14 Malawi citizens were in-transit to Malawi from South Africa and they had been quarantined in Zimbabwe for 9 days. The citizens argued that Zimbabwe had no authority to detain them as they were in transit to Malawi from South Africa when they got detained. Subsequently, the Malawi citizens were released on 22 May.

Returnees quarantined at Masvingo Polytechnic and Masvingo Teachers Colleges on 29 May staged a demonstration where they demanded to be given their test results and be released from compulsory quarantine. The demonstration was triggered by an increase of returnees from neighbouring countries who are also being accommodated at the two centres. Those already housed at the facilities fear they are now at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 through continued stay and interaction with new returnees. The returnees argued that they have been under quarantine for the past 17 days though they have not received results for their initial COVID-19 tests.

Through their official Twitter page, Zimbabwe Republic Police announced 23 of the 148 people who escaped from various quarantine centres across the country had been apprehended. This comes after the number of people escaping fro quarantine centres has been on the increase. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Nick Mangwana reported that village-based COVID-19 vigilance groups would monitor and report cases of returnees who would have escaped from mandatory quarantine are being formed across Mudzi District. He added that a man and his wife were arrested in the Nyahuku area after villagers reported and he had jumped the border with his wife and had avoided quarantine centres.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Nick Mangwana also reported that Goromonzi High School Quarantine Centre has 66 people. Beitbridge Quarantine Centre has 74 returnees (37 female adults,34 male adults and 3 minors). Out of the 74, returnees at Beitbridge Quarantine Centre, 39 are in isolation while 35 are in the quarantine.

In Umzingwane District, 40 male returnees were released from Esikhoveni Quarantine Centre on 30 May after completing their mandatory 21 days. A group of females could not be released after one lady who had sneeked into the country illegally to attend a funeral tested positive to COVID-19.

Re-opening of academic institutions

In our previous installment, we reported that the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe’s (PTUZ) Secretary-General Raymond Majongwe had advised through his official Twitter page that teachers’ unions and representatives would meet with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education on 29 May to discuss the reopening of schools and possible challenges that will be faced by teachers and learners.

The meeting was indeed held. Honourable Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga chaired the meeting. The unions maintained that they are not ready to allow schools to open until we pass through the cold winter season in which the COVID-19 thrives most. The unions advocated for the supply of shields as opposed to face masks for all teachers. They were also unanimous in that they want schools to re-open but under basic minimum conditions set and acceptable by the World Health Organisation (WHO). They also advised and implored that exams should be postponed until the safety of the teachers and children is guaranteed.

Summary of violations

The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 30 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
Arrests; 370; Masvingo, 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
Missing persons/Abductions3Harare

Court Update

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 and tortured on 13 May 2020 after a demonstration by the MDC Alliance in Warren Park are set to take their bd to stop prosecutions to the Constitutional Court. The trio faces a charge of breaching lockdown regulations and have since been placed on remand while on their hospital beds and have been granted bail paving the way for them to go home when they are discharged.

Conclusion

The sudden spike in the number of COVID-19 positive cases is cause for serious concern. While most of the cases involve returnees, there is concern that the disease will spread initially within the isolation centres and there are genuine fears of the disease spreading outside these centres especially in view of increasing reports of people escaping from the isolation centres. The increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases also comes as the government is consulting stakeholders on the reopening of schools and universities. The Forum, therefore, urges the government to take into consideration the welfare of children and teachers. The Forum is also concerned with reports of politicisation of subsidised mealie-meal as this program is a government initiative that should benefit all Zimbabweans regardless of political affiliation. The Forum therefore calls upon the government to investigate these reports and take action against offenders.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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