Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Weekly Monitoring Report 22-28 August 2020 – Days 146-152

Introduction                                                                                  
This weekly report covers days between Saturday 22 to Friday 28 August 2020 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and has been in place since 30 March 2020 respectively. By Friday 28 August, confirmed COVID-19 cases had increased to six thousand three hundred and eighty-eight (6 388). The national recovery rate stood at 78.9% (5 043) whilst the death toll increased to one hundred and ninety-five (195).

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
Public Service Commission Secretary Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe has highlighted that civil servants who fall ill with COVID-19 while on duty will be fully looked after while they recover, even if there are complications that delay full recovery. Addressing journalists in Harare recently, Ambassador Wutawunashe added that the government is now granting up to six months of sick leave on full-pay as well as paying all medical bills of front-line health staff.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary education dismissed news circulating on social media to the effect that schools will be re-opening on 2 September. In a statement, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education noted that schools remain closed until further notice. This also comes after President Mnangagwa advised journalists that primary and secondary final year students who are supposed to sit for their final examinations in November and December would do so as planned, despite the fact that learners were last in school on 24 March 2020. President Mnangagwa advised that the developed and approved guidelines that were put in place for the June 2020 examinations will be used for the holding of the final examinations in November/December. Meanwhile the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) has urged the government to postpone the Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council’s November examinations to May next year saying learners in remote areas were totally unprepared due to closure of schools five months ago.

The government reinstated striking health workers on the payroll amid indications that it is working on reviewing their salaries. The striking health workers did not receive their July salaries after the Health Services Board (HSB) implemented the no-work-no-pay principle. Through their representatives, the health workers thanked their employer for fulfilling its promise. However, the health workers have vowed not to go back to work until their salary adjustment demands are met as they continue to argue that they are incapacitated and they need to be provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). The nurses have been on strike since May, a critical time when their services are required in the fight against COVID-19.

The Minister of Information and Publicity Senator Monica Mutsvangwa has said that the government has turned to village health workers (VHW) to help in detecting COVID-19 cases in communities as the strike by nurses continues. Speaking at State House in Harare on Monday following a meeting of the inter-ministerial taskforce on COVID-19, the Minister advised that the long-forgotten village healthcare workers would get training on COVID-19 detection and containment in their local communities. She further reported that community awareness programmes were gathering momentum. And that the training of trainers is already underway in all eight rural and two metropolitan provinces.

Harare Magistrate Lazini Ncube ordered the immediate sanitisation of prison cells at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.  Giving an order after an application by the incarcerated MDC Alliance National Deputy Chairperson Mr Job Sikhala’s lawyers, the Magistrate ordered that the cells should be fumigated for COVID-19. Despite the realisation that prisons are a potential breeding space for COVID-19, Mr Sikhala and other detainees were not given personal protective equipment to protect them from COVID-19.

Parliament’s standing rules and orders committee chaired by National Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda announced that Members of Parliament will be subjected to compulsory COVID-19 tests when Parliament resumes sitting on September 1. The clerk of Parliament Mr Kennedy Chokuda advised that arrangements are being made for members to be tested in their provinces. This decision came after five legislators tested positive for COVID-19.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Dr John Mangudya advised that cash disbursements to vulnerable households affected by COVID-19 are set to resume soon as the RBZ finalises its investigations into abuse of mobile money platforms, which were the key medium for the pay-outs. The payments were affected when bulk payments were suspended in June. Government plans to pay over a million households to cushion them from the fallout of the coronavirus. Most of the beneficiaries had been registered under NetOne’s OneMoney mobile platform.

The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has been called upon to re-introduce commuter trains to help ease transport challenges in Bulawayo and Harare, with commuters at times being forced to walk to and from town. According to the national lockdown regulations, ZUPCO registered buses and kombis are the only ones allowed to offer public transport in the urban areas.

Assaults
On 23 August, Paradzai Chinogurei of Ridgeview location in Mt Darwin ward 26, was assaulted with baton sticks by Constable Kasirori and 2 other unidentified police officers at ZRP Mt Darwin charge office. He was also later charged for disorderly conduct. This was after the victim had gone to inquire about the arrest of his niece Nomsa Chalufu who had been arrested for defying the national lockdown regulations relating to mandatory wearing of face masks. It is alleged that Nomsa Chilufu failed to put on a face mask. Following the assault, Chinogurei was further forced to pay an admission of guilt fine of ZWL500 for alleged disorderly conduct. The victim suffered a swollen right hand of which he had to seek some medication.

On 24 August, a Binga North well-known MDC Alliance supporter, Mashud Munenge was assaulted by members of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) with booted feet and fists for allegedly defying the national lockdown and curfew. The soldiers marched him from Binga Sports Bar to Binga police station where he was detained and released the following morning without charge.

Arrests
On 21 August, police officers arrested MDC Alliance Zengeza West legislator Honourable Job Sikhala and charged him incitement to commit public violence. The arrest is linked to the 31 July protests. The MDC Alliance National Deputy Chairperson was arrested and charged with inciting violence on the demonstration which was supposed to take place on 31 July amidst the COVID-19 regulations. In a related incident, police officers arrested ZLHR Lawyer Jeremiah Bamu who was representing Job Sikhala outside Harare Magistrates Court. Bhamu was taken to Harare Central Police Station where he was detained for almost an hour before being released without any charge preferred against him.

Summary of violations
The table below summarises COVID-19 related human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 28 August 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assaults and Torture including dog bites280Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera, Beitbridge, Domboshava, Wengezi , Binga, Mt Darwin
Attack on Journalists20Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge, Bulawayo
Arrests514Masvingo, 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
Abductions11Chitungwiza, Bulawayo, Harare, Gweru, Hopley
Gunshots2Chitungwiza, Bulawayo
Extra-judicial Killing1Hurungwe
Raids8Chitungwiza, Bulawayo, Harare, Mkoba Gweru

Court Update
On Monday 24 August 2020, Magistrate Ngoni Nduna for  a second time denied to grant a bail application to freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono who was charged with inciting people to revolt against corruption in a planned protest on 31 July 2020.  Hopewell Chin’ono has now spent more than 37 days in pre trail detention. His application for bail at the High Court was also denied.

Another activist, Jacob Ngarivhume has also spent more that a month in pre trail detention after Magistrate Trynos Utahwashe also denied his third bail application at the Harare Magistrates Court.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Huma Rights have approached the High Court of Harare to appeal the decision of  Magistrates Nduna and Utahwashe on behalf of Mr Chin’ono and Mr Ngarivhume.  High Court Justices Chitapi and Musithu who are hearing the appeals have postponed the appeal to next week.  Both Chin’ono and Ngarivhume have genuine fears that they will be infected with COVID-19 in prison as they are exposed to it.

Conclusion
The Forum remains seriously concerned by the wage dispute between the Ministry of Health and nurses which has remained unresolved during the time of the pandemic.  The Forum therefore urges the parties to earnestly seek to engage and resolve their differences in the national interests of preserving the lives of citizens.

The Forum is also concerned by a growing trend in the courts to refuse to grant bail to arrested people before they have been fully tried and convicted of their crimes.  The Forum reminds the authorities that the Constitution of Zimbabwe through section 49 guarantees the right to freedom of personal liberty and that this fundamental freedom should be sturdily protected through the mechanism of granting bail to arrested people.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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