Constitution Amendment Bill (2), amidst COVID-19 lockdown: What is the hurry? – Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 68 – WCoZ Covid-19 Situation Report

68 days into the lockdown, and the number of COVID-19 positive cases as at the 4th of June 2020 has increased by 15 new cases, bringing the total number to 237. All the new cases were recorded from returnees.

In a bizarre development, divorced from the lived realities of citizen’s lives, as the statistics on COVID-19 spiral out of control, and the whole nation is engaged in the battle against COVID-19, Parliament of Zimbabwe on the other hand, has shockingly committed itself towards conducting Public Hearings on Constitution Amendment Bill 2.

We raise concern that the current practical situation presented by COVID-19, lockdown, limitations on gatherings and travel, do not make the environment democratically conducive for the Consultation processes. The Constitutional process which resulted in the enactment of the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe was deeply engaging, inclusive and informed process, which was influenced by the people.

Therefore, amending the same Constitution would require the same level of engagement and inclusivity. It is impossible to strike a balance between the Constitution amendment process and COVID-19. Either of the two will have to wait.

It cannot be good practice to disallow protest or dissent due to COVID-19 restrictions yet permit Parliamentary law making consultations nationwide for amending the very bedrock of the Nation.

Critical Emerging Issues

1. Prioritisation of use of face masks over social distancing

Reports from grassroots networks continue to note that communities are complying with the guidelines on mandatory use of face mask. However, the majority are not paying heed to need to social distance. This has been particularly noted in areas such Bindura Urban, Ushewokunze, Guruve and Chivi.

  • We continue to call upon communities to fully comply with the lockdown measures, as a means to prevent further spread of the disease.

2. Challenges accessing public transport

We further note growing challenges in accessing public transport, particularly in Guruve.

Reports also indicate, that in other parts of the country, in order to mitigate this challenge mshika-shika has also resumed operations. This places commuters at a risk of exposure to COVID-19, given lack of regulation and compliance by the mshika-shika system that Government has announced that ZUPCO shall continue to be the sole transport provider for the pub in Guruve.

The primary problem lies in the State seeking to overhaul an entire national public transport system during a COVID lockdown which is neither operationally feasible nor respectful of existing legal frameworks and policy.

These developments come in after Government announced earlier this week, that ZUPCO would remain the sole transport provider during the lockdown. This position is untenable as it has direct negative implications of the community access to underserviced rural and peri urban communities who have not benefitted for the existing mass transit system by ZUPCO in the first place.

  • We recommend further consultations with the public transport operators associations in order to develop solutions that effectively address the challenge, while at the same time ensuring that the commuting public is not exposed to COVID-19.

Outstanding Issues

1. Parliament on Schools re-opening

We continue to associate ourselves with the position taken by the Parliament of Zimbabwe Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education, that it does not recommend the resumption of the education sector.

We highlight the concerns raised and amplified by the Committee over the safety measures, and submitted that children should not be used as experiments. Thus, reiterating the calls, we have been making on enhancing the safety protocols, which includes:

  • The sanitization and maintenance of hygiene within centres of learning.
  • The provision of masks to be used by teachers and pupils.
  • The adherence to social and physical distancing protocols
  • The decongestion of schools.
  • Testing of pupils, teachers and other staff members.
  • Early COVID-19 detection measures and early warning systems within the school community.

We are gravely concerned by engagements and messaging from the highest levels of Government that indicates that individual households and families facing incredible strain will be once again asked to shoulder the burden of preparedness and readiness to fight COVID-19 in particular, the costs regarding securing hygiene, sanitization and testing services for the resumption of education sector.

  • We urge Government to take heed of the national call on the matter of resumption of the education sector and resist the temptation to push citizens into high risk programs without adequate protection of lives.

2. Restrictions in movement by the security agents

We continue to witness restrictions on citizens’ movement by the Police and army. In other instances, it has been reported that most travellers were turned away and barred from entering the Harare Central Business District.
We note the distortion of the definition of essential service through the methods of enforcement wherein person who are stated in the regulations as defined and protected as essential service continue to be harassed by enforcement officers.

  • We await clarification of what is essential services as several persons protected by the definition of essential services under COVID-19 regulations were removed from public transport and turned away from the Harare Central Business District.
  • We reiterate our call for an official position on movement, travel permits and essential services, as we have noted growing inconsistences throughout the week.
  • We reinforce our calls upon the enforcing agents to exercise restraint and avoid unleashing terror and violence upon communities, under the guise of enforcing lockdown.

This SITREP is developed by and through the collective network of organisational and individual members of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe who are engaged at community levels to national levels in the COVID19 Zimbabwe response.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)

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