Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report 13 to 14 July 2020 – Days 106 to 107

Introduction                                                                                  
This report covers two days, Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 July 2020 which marked days 106 and 107 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and has been in place since 30 March 2020 respectively. By Tuesday 14 July 2020, confirmed COVID-19 cases had increased to one thousand and sixty-four (1064). The number of cumulative tests done stood at ninety-three thousand two hundred and forty-eighty (93 248). The death toll increased to twenty (20).

Of concern to the Forum is that the levels of testing in the country remain very low.  To date, the number of tests conducted constitutes less than 0.25% of the current population in the country.  Further, statistics pertaining to the number of deaths include those conducted on dead bodies.  This raises fears of a silent pandemic quickly spreading, without proper monitoring and control measures in place to respond accordingly.

Methodology
Information contained in this report is derived from the following Forum Members:

  • Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)
  • Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
  • Counselling Services Unit (CSU)
  • Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR)
  • Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights)

Highlights  
In Masvingo, police officers and soldiers cordoned off all roads and footpaths leading into the Masvingo CBD claiming that they were enforcing level 2 of the national lockdown. Commuters on their way to work with exemption letters were turned away and only security services and medical practitioners were allowed access into the CBD. Reports also indicated the heavy presence of armed police and soldiers in Masvingo CBD and residential areas.

Returnees quarantined in Gweru protested against being held against their will after the government failed to release them after the prescribed 21-day mandatory quarantine. Reports indicated that the returnees have not been tested for COVID-19 for the past 22 days while others reported that they have not received their results despite having been tested 21 days ago. Police officers were called in to quell the protests.

According to the latest Bulawayo City Council report, the city has recorded a 53% increase in the number of women who deliver at home or on their way to a health institution owing to COVID-19. Some women have been shying away from health institutions due to COVID-19 fearing contracting COVID-19 or due to transport and financial issues resulting from the national lockdown.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education director of communications and advocacy, Mr Taungana Ndoro advised that all teachers should report for duty on July 28, the date set for the return of examination classes in the phased reopening of schools, and should make arrangements to be at their stations to either teach the examination classes or be able to give alternative learning to the rest of the schoolchildren.

Nurses from the United Bulawayo Hospitals, Ingutsheni Mental Health Hospital and Mpilo Central Hospital staged a joint demonstration over the government’s reluctance to pay their salaries in United States dollars and the arrest of their Harare colleagues. They also questioned the rationale behind firing hospitals chief executive officers (CEOs) citing corruption while leaving other top officials. On 6 July police officers in Harare arrested 13 nurses at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital after they protested over poor remuneration. Two were released after paying fines while the rest spent the night in cells and were charged with contravening COVID-19 lockdown regulations and released on $1000 bail each by a Mbare Magistrate.

Bulawayo Police Spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube confirmed that a returnee who is allegedly on the run after killing his landlord in neighbouring South Africa escaped from a quarantine centre in Beitbridge before killing a neighbour in Bulawayo. Mandla Moyo, aka MaFifty, is currently on the run for 2 counts of murder and absconding mandatory quarantine.

Twenty Fourth Post-Cabinet Press Briefing 14th July 2020
To curb the increase in transmissions as well as deaths from COVID-19, the Cabinet approved the following measures:

  • the current lockdown restrictions will be tightened, while localised lockdowns are introduced in hotspot areas and further opening up of the economy is halted;
  • testing in communities with high cases of local transmission such as Bulawayo will be increased;
  • the re-opening of schools shall be deferred pending a review of the situation, while the writing of public examinations continues;
  • private schools that have already opened without permission will be penalized;
  • the government shall have the sole responsibility for inter-city travel for those that really require to travel especially to seek medical attention; and
  • two (2) buses will be availed to transport those that test positive from Beitbridge to their respective provincial isolation centres.

Cabinet further noted with concern that some members of some religious sects have gathered in their numbers in Manicaland Province for their yearly retreat, in contravention of COVID-19 regulations that prohibit gatherings of more than fifty (50) people. This poses a high risk to the spread of COVID-19. Accordingly, Cabinet directed that the gathering should disperse forthwith.

Abductions
A minor [name withheld] was allegedly abducted from his house in Kuwadzana 2 by unknown people in civilian clothing who identified themselves as police officers. It was reported that the unidentified people were looking for one of the people planning the 31 July protests. After they arrived at his home in Kuwadzana 2, they bundled up his young brother and drove away with him after he had indicated that the person, they were looking for was not around. The minor was later dumped at Kuwadzana 2 shopping centre with bruises on his hands.

Arrests
In Masvingo, Tafadzwa Kutya of Youth Initiative for Social Justice (YISOJ) was arrested for allegedly plotting to overthrow a constitutionally elected government by mobilising youths to attend the Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2 public hearings in Masvingo Urban and Chivi. It is alleged that Kutya was detained at Masvingo Central Police Station where he was interrogated relating to his participation in the Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2 public hearings. He was later released without any charge.

Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 12 July 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault279Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera, Beitbridge, Domboshava, Wengezi
Attack on Journalists21Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge
Arrests497Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange, Murwi, Kwekwe, Chinhoyi
Abductions4Harare
Gunshots2Chitungwiza, Bulawayo

Conclusion
The Forum is concerned about the ever-increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases.  The Forum, therefore, urges the government to increase levels of testing and screening so that correct statistics of the pandemic and in-country transmissions can be properly recorded and managed.  With the relaxation of COVID-19 regulations nationally, the government should amplify screening and testing levels in order to make informed policy decisions. Of particular concern are the planned 31 July demonstration and the reopening of schools on 28 July.

The Forum also reiterates the need for the speedy resolution of grievances by health care workers and the need for government to amplify efforts to capacitate medical facilities as these form the last line of defence against the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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