Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report 28-29 July 2020 – Days 119-120

Introduction                                                                                  
This report covers two days, Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 July 2020 which marked days 119 and 120 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and has been in place since 30 March 2020 respectively. By Wednesday 29 July 2020 confirmed COVID-19 cases had increased to two thousand eight hundred and seventy-nine (2 879). Local transmissions accounted for one thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven (1837) cases. The number of cumulative tests done stood at one hundred and twenty-six thousand seven hundred and eight (126 708). The death toll increased to forty-one (41).

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)
  • Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA)

Highlights
Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda announced that two Members of Parliament had tested positive for COVID-19. The two Members of Parliament were part of a team that had gone for field visits across the country. Advocate Mudenda announced that Parliament on 27 July would be composed of a limited number for the sole purpose of adjourning the House to allow for contact tracing and disinfecting the House. Other members who were part of the team were reportedly in self-quarantine. This comes as numerous government departments and companies have also closed down in response to confirmed COVID-19 cases. The District Medical Officer for Zvimba, Dr Dandazi announced the closure of Madzorera Clinic in Ward 29 of Zvimba West after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 at the facility.  Businesses and service providers including OK Supermarket Fife Avenue, OK Supermarket Norton, OK Supermarket Mbuya Nehanda, Pick n Pay Supermarket Kamfinsa, The Avenues Clinic, National Social Security Authority (NSSA) and Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals closed some units after some of their employees tested positive to COVID-19. Similarly, in Chinhoyi, the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) closed down after staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

Reports received from Harare confirm that informal traders, who are currently unable to ply their trade on the capital’s pavements, have invaded open spaces around industrial areas, mainly in Graniteside, posing a COVID-19 health hazard as they flout lockdown regulations. Since the relaxation of the COVID-19 lockdown in April, the Forum has received reports of informal traders, who are flocking to factories and wholesalers in the industrial area to purchase plastic buckets, blankets, plates and clothing items, among others, jostling to buy their wares without observing social distancing or wearing face masks. Frustrated shop attendants’ efforts to enforce social distancing in the queues have failed to bear fruit. Some enterprising vendors display their goods on open spaces to sell to those who are not keen on pushing and shoving in the meandering queues at the wholesalers. The hordes of informal traders, despite the many roadblocks set up by security forces to enforce lockdown regulations, still find their way to the industrial areas.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga has urged Zimbabweans to disregard anti-government protests which are being planned by the opposition saying they are illegal and not in line with COVID-19 regulations announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Meanwhile, the MDC Alliance deputy national chairperson Job Sikhala, who is currently in hiding, says that the anti-government demonstrations would go ahead despite the crackdown by authorities on some of the organisations. The MDC Alliance issued a statement in response to a list of 14 people who are being requested by police officers to come for interviews and advised that this would be defied.   

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) through their 8th COVID-19 Monitoring and Advocacy Report published on 28 July 2020 lamented the growing trend in health professionals who are testing positive to COVID-19. ZADHR attributed the COVID—19 positive results to exposure at the workplace due to lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Reports indicate that over 200 health workers have tested positive countrywide. Of note is 25 health workers testing positive at Zvishavane District Hospital, 3 at Claybank Private Hospital in Gweru, 70 in Bulawayo and another 70 at Parirenyatwa Hospital with the rest dotted across the country. According to ZADHR, the failure to provide frontline health workers with adequate PPE flies in the face of the 14th of April 2020 High Court order which ordered the government through the Ministry of Health and Child Care to “provide all frontline health personnel at public health facilities in the country or deployed to trace contacts exposed by infected people, are provided with personal protective equipment (PPE)” to protect them from COVID-19.

Arrests
In Harare, three (3) Harare South MDC Alliance youths were arrested from their homes for allegedly planning the 31 July protests. Emmanuel Mukwemu, Petronella Mapaire and Trynos Hove were picked up by suspected state agents in civilian clothing and detained at Harare Central Police Station where they were interrogated about the 31 July protest. The trio is yet to be formally charged. 

Abduction
In Bulawayo, MDC Alliance youth activist Takunda Madzana was allegedly abducted by suspected state security agents who went on to interrogate him on the planned July 31 protests. Madzana was allegedly abducted from his Magwegwe home between 11 pm and 12 am on 27 July. He was taken to a secluded area near Magwegwe, where he was assaulted, tortured and dumped there. The abductors allegedly wanted information on who was funding the July 31 protest. They also wanted to know who are other officials in the party involved as well as details about other organisations that are offering solidarity. Madzana sustained injuries to his face, back and hands as a result of the assault.

On 29 July, human rights defender, Otilia Sibanda, was abducted around 6 am from her home in Nkulumane. She was dragged from her house and forced into an unregistered, blue Honda Fit by unidentified men in civilian clothing. Another vehicle, a white Toyota Platz with no registration plates was also seen leaving the scene. Her whereabouts are currently unknown.

On 29 April, armed men allegedly abducted the wife of MDC Alliance branch Chair Oliver Gwatiringa at about 130am in Hopley. The armed men led by a ZANU PF supporter, only identified as Forbes broke into the house, and destroyed property then took the wife. It was alleged that the men were looking for Oliver Gwatiringa. Gwatiringa’s wife was dumped near Churu farm with injuries consistent with torture and assault.

On 28 July, Sibongile Toendepi a political activist in Hopely was abducted around 10 pm by eight (8) suspected State agents. She was taken to a secluded place near Cresta breeders where she was undressed and severely tortured. The perpetrators accused her of organising the 31 July protests. Toendepi was forced to drink dirty water, and her mobile phone was confiscated before she was left for dead. She was later rescued by well-wishers and is currently receiving treatment.

Arrests
On 28 July, police officers arrested George Makonzo in Mwenezi and charging him with criminal nuisance and incitement to participate in public violence. Makonzo allegedly commented on Twitter that; “It’s no longer business as usual for E.D, now the whole world knows the true colours of a crocodile we are dealing with.” The tweet led to his arrest. He is yet to stand trial for the allegations.

Assault
On 29 July around 12 pm, four (4) MDC Alliance supporters were assaulted with fists and iron bars by ZANU PF supporters led by Tongai Mnangagwa and Hardlife Maphosa at Retreat Farm in Harare South. The four (4) MDC Alliance supporters sustained serious injuries as a result of the assault. This comes two (2) days after ZANU PF acting spokes Patrick Chinamasa encouraged violence by inciting his party supporters to use any means at their disposal to defend themselves during the planned 31 July protest against corruption.

Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 29 July 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault284Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera, Beitbridge, Domboshava, Wengezi
Attack on Journalists27Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge
Arrests506Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange, Murwi, Kwekwe, Chinhoyi
Abductions8Harare
Gunshots2Chitungwiza, Bulawayo

Court Update
On 27 July 2020, the Young Lawyers Association of Zimbabwe and a female lawyer Nontokozo Tachiona approached the High Court sitting in Harare to seek  an order to set aside increased demands by police officers enforcing the country’s COVID-19 lockdown measures at checkpoints. In the court challenge, the applicants argued that the demands by ZRP were unconstitutional. Commissioner General Police Godwin Matanga, police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi and Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe were cited as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents in the application.   On 28 July 2020, the High Court granted the order barring the police requirements for the public at checkpoints as set out in the press statement published on 25 July 2020. 

Conclusion
The Forum remains gravely concerned by the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections that continue to rise.  The Forum, therefore, urges the government to do the following:

  • COVID-19 Task force to properly devise and implement strategies that target the hotspots that are contributing to the increase of local transmissions of COVID-19;
  • Provide personal protective equipment to all front-line workers and other law enforcement officers to curb in-country transmissions;
  • The Ministry of Health to provide adequate personal protective equipment to all health workers at all institutions in the country;
  • To ensure adequate dissemination of information to citizens to ensure that they are informed on the COVID-19 pandemic and measures required to curb the spread of infections.
  • Investigate cases of abductions and bring perpetrators to justice.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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