Wednesday 17 June 2020 marked day 80 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 four hundred and one (401). The number of cumulative tests done stood at sixty thousand five hundred and eighty-five (60 585). Of these, sixty thousand one hundred and eighty-four (60 184) were negative. The number of recoveries increased to sixty-three (63) and the death toll remains at four (4).
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)
In Kwekwe police officers and soldiers manning checkpoints leading into the city centre turned away commuters. It was reported that all retail shops and banks were forced to close. People who accessed the CBD earlier in the morning to queue at banks were also turned away. At checkpoints, only medical and security personnel were allowed to pass through. All other professionals were turned away even if they had exemption letters. ZUPCO buses also refused to carry passengers other than nurses, doctors and members of the security services. This appears to be a trend with similar stringent enforcement of the lockdown measures being witnessed in Harare and Bulawayo. No official statement has been given to give reasons for the elevated lockdown enforcements in all incidences.
In Harare, long queues of commuters in public and private transport were witnessed at checkpoints along Chiremba Road, Seke Road, and Samora Machel between 8 am to 930am. Reports indicate that soldiers and police officers manning the checkpoints were denying commuters access into town. Some passengers boarding ZUPCO buses were not allowed to proceed to town. It was further reported that police officers and soldiers were vetting exemption letters. Those that they deemed to be fake were torn and the owners instructed to go back to their homes.
In Harare, doctors and nurses from Parirenyatwa Hospital staged a demonstration demanding better living wages and the provision of personal protective equipment. Though some of the health professionals wore face masks, there was no social distancing observed during the demonstration. Similarly, the majority of the over 60 anti-riot police officers deployed to respond to the demonstration did not have face masks and they were closely packed together in police vehicles.
Reports received from most parts of the country including Beitbridge, Chipinge, Mutare, Harare and Bulawayo indicated that unregistered public transporters ferrying passengers are on the increase. In reported incidences, privately owned commuter omnibuses and private vehicles have resumed ferrying people clandestinely during the early hours of the day and in the evening to evade police who usually mount roadblocks along major highways. It was also alleged that some of the private vehicles have begun intercity travel. To evade police checkpoints, police officers are allegedly bribed.
The Forum has received increased reports of community members defying the lockdown to attend funerals and religious functions. In Mbizo, Kwekwe, it was reported that over 200 mourners congregated at a funeral. COVID-19 regulations primarily mandatory wearing of face masks were not observed. Similarly in Kweke, it was reported that over 100 congregants of an apostolic sect including children spent 2 nights at their secluded shrine in Mbizo.
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill Public hearings
Since public hearings started on 15 June 2020 the Forum has observed a worrying trend of defiance of COVID-19 regulations. In all of the public hearings conducted to date, social distance is not maintained during the period before public hearings commence. Reports indicate that community members take the time to socialise. Most of the participants only put on their face masks to be allowed to gain entry into the public hearings. Once inside, it was observed that participants take off their face masks. It was also observed that though police officers are deployed at public hearings, they do not enforce the mandatory social distancing and proper use of face masks. In an incident reported in Lupane, temperature checks were not conducted as part of efforts to screen participants.
MDC Alliance Youth Assembly spokesperson Stephen Sarkozy Chuma was arrested in Chitungwiza in connection with a demonstration that took place in Warren Park on 13 May 2020 that also resulted in the abduction of Honourable Joanah Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova. Mr Chuma was taken to Harare Central Police Station where he is still detained.
Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 17 June 2020.
|Nature of Violation||Number of Victims||Location|
|Assault||278||Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera, Beitbridge, Domboshava, Wengezi|
|Attack on Journalists||16||Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge|
|Arrests||452||Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange, Murwi, Kwekwe|
|Malicious Damage to Property||2||Harare, Chitungwiza|
The hearing of the case against six police officers who assaulted Nokhutula Mpofu and Ntombizodwa Mpofu of Cowdray Park is set to commence on 24 June 2020 in Bulawayo. The six accused officers are Simbarashe Bvekwa, Tichaona Zariro, Patson Gumoreyi, Elizabeth Denhere, Zibusisio Masuku and Christabel Munyondo. They are facing charges of brutally assaulting the two women on 16 April 2020 for breaching lockdown regulations.
The Forum is concerned about the continuous defiance of COVID-19 regulations during the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill public hearings. The Forum reiterates its calls for Parliament to postpone the public hearings until after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Forum continues to reiterate the need for consistency in the enforcement of the national lockdown. This comes after the sudden stringent enforcement of the lockdown by law enforcement officers in Bulawayo, Harare and Kwekwe without prior notice or reasonable motive. The Forum is also concerned with the deployment of soldiers and their involvement in civilian affairs amidst continuous allegations of assault and torture of citizens.
Finally, the Forum encourages the government and relevant ministries to provide personal protective clothing to frontline workers, particularly medical professionals as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The Forum also calls on the government to address the concerns of medical practitioners at a time when they are the last line of defence against COVID-19.
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)