Amending the Constitution in the Midst of a pandemic. . . It’s a grand heist! – Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 71 – WCoZ Covid-19 Situation Report

71 days into the lockdown, the Ministry of Health and Childcare reported that as at the 8th of June 2020, the number of COVID-19 positive cases had increased to 287 cases.

Today Parliament of Zimbabwe, announced that it will hold public hearings on Constitution Amendment (2) from 15 June to 20 June 2020.

We reiterate that the current 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 a 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.

We note with concern that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that administer elections has suspended by-elections citing COVID-19 measures compliance grounds and these are the processes that select our representatives to Government and yet the legislature is proposing to undertake an ancillary process during COVID-19 measures.

We note the strengthening of guidelines for international trade and haulage trucks in regards to ensuring the freight forwarding and logistics sectors strengthen practical responses against COVID-19 by creating one way delivery systems for truck drivers.

We also note the guidelines for the resumption of the local tourism sector and we urge operators to ensure the highest levels of safety for both guests and employees. We note the caution to the phased approach being adopted.

Critical Emerging Issues

1. Lockdown measures

The only group of persons who seem to continue to bear the brunt of the indefinite lockdown, are those in the informal sector, whose business continue to be under restriction. This has prompted the public to suggest that the lockdown should simply be suspended, in order to allow for every citizen to resume trading and other income generating activities.

Reports from our networks continue to reveal non-compliance with social distancing, particularly in Chipinge were it is reported that beerhalls and night-spots are fully operational.

This is a trend noted throughout the country, where communities seem to have totally disregarded the lockdown, and have been going about with their business;

  • We urge stronger enforcement in growth points and popular night spot in farming and peri-urban mining communities.

2. Restrictions in movement by the security agents

We continue to witness undue 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 services, 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 call for an official position on movement, travel permits and essential services, as we have noted growing inconsistencies 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.

3. Delay in implementing social protection measures

We note that the Government today reiterated that it will implement the social protection program to vulnerable households that will see each vulnerable household receiving a cash transfer of ZWL$300 per month as income support.

We note that the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe has stated that a family of six now requires ZWL$5 551 for groceries a month while a further ZWL$2 666 is required for basic requirements such as housing, transport, health and clothing.

The administrative and operational delays in disbursing the social protection grants by Government, while communities face increased hunger and destitution with little relief, and in the face of soaring inflation is untenable. This has raised a general sense of discontent and disgruntlement by the communities over the delays in the implementation of social protection measures by Government;

  • We call upon the Government to prioritise the efficacy and efficiency of Government operations to ensure that Government is best structured to deliver upon its mandate.
  • We reiterate our call for the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to expedite the implementation of social protection programs to alleviate economic shocks upon vulnerable households.
  • We further call the State to order, particularly on its duty to ensure that citizens enjoy the progressive realisation of their right to food and water.

Outstanding issue

1. Report on the vulnerable namely, detainees and prisons populations

We continue to note that we are yet to receive a publicized report on the protection of vulnerable populations such as refugee camps and prison population;

Further aware that on a daily basis there are new entrants who are sent to remand prison from the outside world, where they may have been exposed to the virus and remain asymptomatic;

  • We call for Parliament of Zimbabwe to undertake oversight visits to these vulnerable communities urgently.

Aware that most of our detention facilities and refugee camps may not be capacitated enough and that social distancing rules may be difficult to enforce. Further aware that Beitbridge and Plumtree Prisons already recorded COVID-19 cases;

  • We buttress our calls upon Government to urgently publicize and implement a comprehensive crisis plan to cater for the rights, needs and safety of detainees in the COVID-19 era.
  • We urge for particular attention to vulnerable detainees such as juveniles, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and those with underlying health conditions.

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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