Friday 31 July 2020 marked day 122 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 three thousand one hundred and sixty-nine (3 169). The number of cumulative tests done stood at one hundred and thirty-one thousand and thirty-five (131 035). The number of recoveries increased to one thousand and four (1004) and the death toll increased to sixty-seven (67).
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)
Police and soldiers locked down major capitals in the country on 31 July using the COVID-19 regulations after threats of massive demonstrations by opposition political parties. The capital city Harare was virtually deserted as only police officers went around to ensure there was no one in the Central Business District.
The late Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Water Resources Perrence Shiri who passed away on 29 July 2020 was laid to rest at the national heroes’ acre. Shiri who tested positive to COVID-19 was buried in terms of the COVID-19 regulations. Pallbearers were clad in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in the country, the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC) closed its offices after at least eleven (11) employees tested positive for COVID-19. This was confirmed in a statement by the organisation which indicated that it has closed its offices to facilitate thorough disinfection as a precautionary measure to mitigate against the spread of COVID 19. Normal business activity is expected to resume on Tuesday 4 August 2020. This also comes as nine Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) employees at the Willowvale depot tested positive to COVID-19. ZUPCO has also made an undertaking to space out passengers in its buses to increase social distancing, while the mandatory temperature testing, sanitisation, wearing of masks by passengers and disinfection of buses after every trip will continue. Many businesses have since shut as employees continue to test positive to the pandemic
Water availability in the country during the COVID-19 period remains a big challenge with Harare producing 258 megalitres (ML) per day when 1 200ML is required. The shortage of water has forced women to the fetch precious liquid from boreholes where social distancing is difficult to observe, increasing the risk of contracting COVID-19. Similarly, in Bulawayo, the city’s water supply dams have crippled the pumping of both raw and clean water to the Criterion Raw Water and Tuli Clear Water reservoirs. The city’s water supply dams are currently at just 25,70%. The low water levels have resulted in reduced pumping to Tuli Reservoir as well as Criterion Works. The City of Bulawayo is currently under 144 hours of water-shedding per week after it decommissioned three of its six supply dams which are located in Matabeleland South province. The city has experienced outbreaks of diseases such as typhoid and diarrhoea, which have been blamed on contaminated water.
Senior doctors downed tools, joining nurses who have been on strike for more than 40 days, a move that will add a strain to the country’s already paralysed healthcare system. The strike came after doctors this week rejected a government plea for them to shelve their job action demanding protective clothing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zimbabwe Senior Hospital Doctors Association president Shingai Nyaguse said the Health ministry was not taking their concerns seriously particularly relating to the provision of protective clothing. In response to the nurses’ strike, the Health Services Board (HSB) has slated the month-long industrial action by nurses as illegal saying they rushed to withdraw labour without sufficient notice. HSB, through the Attorney-General’s Civil Division, said the strike was a threat to people’s constitutional right to health and is likely to cause loss of life and so has approached the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare seeking an order declaring the strike illegal.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee Member Christof Heyns said protesters across the world had a right to protest even in the wake of COVID-19 as long as they adhere to requirements to protect themselves. In a statement, the United Nations Human Rights Commission interpreted the right of peaceful assembly to mean that protesters could exercise their rights without fear. Together with other rights related to political freedom, the right to protest constitutes the very foundation of a democratic society, in which changes can be pursued through discussion and persuasion, rather than the use of force. Heyns’ statement came at a time President Emmerson Mnangagwa has deployed soldiers to block a protest against his government meant for 31 July.
With COVID-19 aggravating an already severe hunger crisis in Zimbabwe, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) appealed for an additional USD250 million to support a rapidly expanding emergency operation for millions at-risk. WFP projections indicate that by year’s end, the number of food-insecure Zimbabweans will have surged by almost 50 per cent to touch 8.6 million – a staggering 60 per cent of the population – owing to the combined effects of drought, economic recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The International Coalition Against Coronavirus for Africa (ICAC) Zimbabwean chapter has urged authorities to release more prisoners from overcrowded correctional facilities, which the organisation said were becoming epicentres of COVID-19. Last week, 43 inmates and 23 correctional officers at Grey Prison in Bulawayo tested positive for COVID-19, while over 25 inmates at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison were infected. Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service health services director Evidence Gaka on July 9 also confirmed that five cases had been recorded at Bulawayo Prison involving four inmates and a prison officer.
Police officers arrested 12 people for allegedly defying the lockdown by protesting. The arrested persons include Panashe Sivindani in Bulawayo, Machirairwa Mugidho in Chiredzi, Sydney Mbewe in Gweru while Tsitsi Dangarembga, Fadzai Mahere, Judy Barnes, Simon Drury, Tinashe Murapatsa, Nyasha Musendu, Josee Lots, Jessica Drury and Tinotenda Muswe were arrested in Harare. The arrested persons were later charged with contravening section 37 (1) (a) (i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23, “incitement to participate in public violence.” Police officers also arrested ZLHR lawyer Obey Shava with his clients Joana Mamombe, Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri near ZANU PF headquarters on their way to Harare Central Police Station where they were scheduled to report as part of bail conditions. Cecilia Chimbiri was assaulted during the arrest. Obey Shava, Joana Mamombe and Netsai Marova were later released, however, Cecilia Chimbiri was charged with insulting police officers.
Attacks on journalists
In Bulawayo, police officers arrested and detained CITE journalist Franklin Sibindi. He was detained at Tshabalala Police station. Police officers claimed that his 2019 media accreditation card is invalid. This is even though the Zimbabwe Media Commission issued a statement confirming the validity of the 2019 cards as the issuance of the 2020 cards was put on hold following a court order obtained by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) challenging the way ZMC had categorised the licencing fees. Sibindi was later released without charge after being detained for 2 hours.
Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 31 July 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||20||Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge, Bulawayo|
|Arrests||511||Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange, Murwi, Kwekwe, Chinhoyi, Chiredzi|
The Forum remains gravely concerned about the inadequacies of state of preparedness and response mechanisms that the government has put in place to curb infections of the COVID-19 pandemic. After 122 days of national lockdown implemented to curb infections, the government’s interventions and strategies have either been non-existent, inadequate and/or ineffective. This is illustrated by the following;
- the levels of testing remain very low. Several positive cases are only known post-mortem, meaning contact tracing and isolation of positive cases is delayed. The existing interventions which are in place are therefore inadequate to enhance testing and ensure that positive cases are quickly identified, contact tracing and isolation is done in time. These actions (besides national lockdown) are the pillars of dealing with the pandemic.
- The deadlock between the Ministry of Health and health care workers concerning salaries, provision of personal protective equipment and working conditions in this time of the pandemic remain unresolved.
- The improvement of the water and sanitation conditions in many parts of the country remains unresolved;
- Provision of safety nets to vulnerable families is yet to be implemented, causing people to defy lockdown regulations to safeguard their livelihoods in search of income and food.
- Medical facilities around the country still report that they have inadequate medical resources, equipment and medicines to treat the disease and take care of citizens’ medical needs that have existed before the pandemic began.
In light of the above, the Forum reiterates to the government of Zimbabwe to put in place effective and meaningful strategies to respond and deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, in the light of recent arrests of activists, journalists and citizens that occurred on 31 July 2020, the Forum also urges the government of Zimbabwe to respect fundamental human rights of its citizens and not to take advantage of the state of disaster-induced by COVID-19 to limit civic space and stifle dissent.
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)