Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report 5 June 2020 – Day 68

Introduction

On Friday 5 June 2020 which marked day 68 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 increased to two hundred and sixty-five (265). The number of cumulative tests done stood at fifty-two thousand two hundred and eighteen (52 218). Of these, fifty-one thousand nine hundred and fifty-three (51 953) were negative. The number of recoveries increased to thirty-three (33) 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 Habakkuk Trust, The Herald and Bulawayo24 have also been incorporated into this report.

Emerging issues

Lockdown Enforcement

Through a statement, the National Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi reported that 1 312 people were arrested on Tuesday 2 June throughout the country. These arrests follow the stepping up of the enforcement of the lockdown by police officers where commuters were turned back and only health and security personnel were allowed access into town centres. According to Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, the cumulative arrests since the commencement of the national lockdown are now 52 041.

In the high-density suburb of Magwegwe in Bulawayo, police officers dispersed members of an apostolic sect who had congregated for an all-night prayer session. It was reported that the apostolic sect congregants were not putting on face masks nor were they observing social distance. Their leader reportedly advised police officers that his congregants were immune to COVID-19 because of their prayers.

In Mbare, Harare, police officers were allegedly soliciting for bribes from vendors. In a reported incident, a vendor came across police officers at 4am near Engen Service Station. When he failed to produce an exemption letter, the police officers gave the vendor two options, either to be arrested or to pay a bribe. As a result of the pressure and harassment, the vendor gave the police officers ZWL195 before they let him go.

General Updates

In an article in the Herald newspaper, it was reported that the Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Obadiah Moyo indicated that confirmed COVID-19 patient names will be published because the pandemic is a contagious and notifiable disease. However, publishing names of patients is contrary to the Public Health Act and is a violation of privacy rights and will only promote stigmatization around the patients.

Reports indicate that Matabeleland South Province has started Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 in Beitbridge, Plumtree and Gwanda using GeneXpert machines as part of the government’s efforts to decentralise testing. Prior to this development, COVID-19 PCR tests for the province were only being done at the National TB Reference Laboratory at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo.

In a statement the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube announced a ZWL 18.02 billion stimulus package on May 4, 2020. On 5 June, the Minister specified the modalities of the stimulus package. The productive sectors will access the facility at an interest rate of not more than 20 per cent and existing qualifying loans must be restructured to allow businesses to recover. A grace period of up to three months will be given to allow businesses to effectively recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown.

In Glenview in Harare, residents were reportedly paying USD1 or ZWL38 to get water from the community borehole close to Assemblies of God Church. It was reported that a self-appointed water committee consisting of one Patience Chiyangaya and Chipo Manhanzva was collecting the subscriptions to facilitate the servicing of the community borehole.

Mandatory quarantine

The Forum is handling a matter of returnees based at Prince Edward High School who allege that they have been in quarantine for a cumulative twenty-eight (28) days and are yet to be tested. The returnees reported that they had been advised that they would be tested on the 8th day of isolation and if negative would be allowed to go and self-quarantine at their homes. However, on the 8th day, they were moved from Harare Polytechnic where they were initially isolated to Prince Edward High School. Of major concern are reports that some of the returnees are on chronic medication which has since runout. The Forum has brought the issue to the attention of responsible authorities’ and has not ruled out litigation to protect the rights of the returnees.

The National Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi reported that one returnee escaped from Esikhoveni Quarantine Centre in Esigodini increasing the total number of escapees nationally to one hundred and fifty-eight (158). Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi also reported that twenty-six (26) escapees have been arrested to date.

The Chief COVID-19 National Coordinator in the Office of the President and Cabinet Ms Agnes Mahomva reported that soldiers have been deployed to man COVID-19 quarantine centres around the country and to track down people who have escaped from the facilities. This comes as the number of escapees have been on the increase due to the conditions in the quarantine centres, which often lack basic social amenities like running water.

Reopening of schools update

In his address during the launch of the Mashonaland East provincial chapter of the COVID-19 schools response plan held at Chinyika High School in Goromonzi, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Mr Cain Mathema advised that the reopening of schools will be determined by the progress made in fighting COVID-19. He further indicated that his ministry is engaging stakeholders in the education sector for input on the re-opening of schools.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in partnership with the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services launched the indigenous languages’ radio lessons programme for early childhood development (ECD), primary and secondary school classes in response to the closure of schools due to Covid-19. The indigenous languages’ radio lessons programme will be broadcasted on major state-run radio stations.

Arrests

THE MDC Alliance co-vice presidents, Tendai Biti, Lynette Karenyi-Kore, and five other senior party officials were arrested on 5 June 2020 outside the Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House after they allegedly tried to gain entry and address a press conference. Other party officials arrested are; Gladys Hlatshwayo who is secretary for international relations and her deputy Lovemore Chinoputsa, party’s deputy secretary general David Chimhini, deputy youth assembly spokesperson Womberayi Nhende, and Vongai Tome. The seven were allegedly in breach of the Covid-19 regulations. They are expected to appear in court on 6 June 2020.

On 5 June, Bulawayo police officers arrested over twenty (20) people. The arrested persons were accused of violating lockdown regulations particularly moving without purpose and disregarding social distance. The arrested persons were taken to Bulawayo Central Police Station. However, the fate of the arrested persons could not be ascertained.

In Gweru, police arrested MDC Alliance Gweru Urban Councillor, Danny Ndava and Chiwundura District Party Youth Chairperson, Tendai Virimayi on 4 June for allegedly breaking COVID-19 regulations. It was reported that the duo is accused of participating in an unsanctioned demonstration, violating the COVID-19 lockdown measures and addressing an illegal gathering. However, the MDC Alliance Midlands Province Deputy Youth Chairperson Tembinkosi Malahleke advised that there was no demonstration staged by the MDC Alliance in Gweru recently. The duo is detained at Gweru Central Police Station.

Summary of violations

The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 5 June 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault264Harare, 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
Arrests435Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange, Mvurwi, Kwekwe
Malicious Damage to Property2Harare, Chitungwiza
Abductions3Harare

Conclusion

The Forum is concerned with the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in quarantine centres. The increasing numbers point to the spread of COVID-19 within the quarantine centres. The Forum therefore calls on the Ministry of Health and Child Care to review the conditions in the quarantine centres. Further, the Forum bemoans the participation of soldiers in civilian affairs given recent history where the people of Zimbabwe have been subjected to human rights violations at the hands of soldiers. The conduct of soldiers deployed at quarantine facilities should be closely monitored to protect the rights of returnees. The Forum also urges the government to urgently address the plight of returnees in quarantine centres to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to minimise the risk of increased abscondment of mandatory quarantine.

The Forum further reiterates its calls on local authorities to provide potable, safe and clean water for citizens. Given the commercialisation of community boreholes by certain individuals, it is constantly difficult for community members to access the precious liquid.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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