Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Weekly Monitoring Report: 2-19 October 2020

Introduction                                                                                  

This report covers the period between Friday 2 October to Monday 19 October 2020 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.  The lockdown has been in place since 30 March 2020. By Sunday, 18 October, confirmed COVID-19 cases had increased to eight thousand one hundred and forty-seven (8 147) with thirty-seven (37) new cases being reported. The national recovery rate stood at 94% (7 678) whilst the death toll increased to two hundred and thirty-one (231).

Methodology

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

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

Highlights

On 2 October 2020, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga in his capacity as the Minister of Health and Child Care, amended Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020 Public Health COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (No 4), of 2020 which indefinitely suspended the holding of by-elections, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the indefinite suspension of the by-elections.

On 15 September, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had through a statement advised of the lifting of the suspension of electoral activities which had been imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, on 8 October, ZEC announced that electoral activities have been further suspended following the gazetting of the amendment to Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020.

The Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, Honourable Oppah Muchinguri, who is also the Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Inter-Ministerial Task Force on the COVID-19 Outbreak advised the media on 6 October that public and private testing laboratories had been set up at Victoria falls and Robert Mugabe International Airports. The laboratories were set up to ensure that PCR results are delivered to travellers within 2 hours of arrival.

The Task Force is yet to dispatch a team to major airports nationally to assess their readiness to receive and test travellers in line with international standards. Honourable Kashiri also added that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is submitting daily updates to the Public Service Commission regarding the training of teachers and non-teaching staff on COVID-19 infection control and prevention measures. Soldiers and police are to remain at strategic points to enforce COVID-19 containment measures such as physical distancing and proper wearing of face masks despite relaxation of most lockdown regulations.

Despite Zimbabwe opening up the skies to returnees and tourists, the borders remain closed which led to dozens of people being turned away at Beitbridge border-post over the past week. Though South Africa re-opened its borders to international travel on 1 October, including Beitbridge, Zimbabwe remains in lockdown. On another note, long queues of haulage trucks tailing from Beitbridge border post to Lutumba, 20 km out of Beitbridge have been a constant sight. The queues are as a result of delays during testing for COVID-19 from the South Africa side. Meanwhile, the Ad Hoc Inter-Ministerial Task Force on the COVID-19 is expected to commence supervisory visits to all ports of entry to assess their preparedness in handling tourists and returnees.

Cabinet noted the preparations for phase 2 of the reopening of schools which includes Grade 6, Form 3 and Form 5 pupils. Despite this, teachers have been on strike citing incapacitation. To date, talks between the government and teachers have not yielded any positive results. The ongoing chaos and uncertainty have led to clashes between parents and school authorities due to fees and tuition related issues.

The Auditor-General Ms Mildred Chiri is set to undertake an audit of all COVID-19 donations and resources. The Auditor-General ordered all government departments to submit related information. The audit seeks to establish how COVID-19 donations received from local companies, individuals, friendly countries and development partners were managed.

Excessive use of force by the police

On 12 October, seven (7) police officers discharged teargas cannisters inside a fully loaded 75-seater bus at Harare Showgrounds Bus Stop. Among the passengers in the bus were elderly women and children. In a video image that went viral on social media, passengers are seen jumping out the bus through windows while police officers stood by watching them choke from teargas that engulfed the entire bus. It is alleged that the police officers accused the bus driver of violating the COVID-19 regulations by ferrying people for inter-city travel without the necessary documentation. The police officers have since been arrested and charged under the Police Act [Chapter 11:10]. The police officers counter alleged that they wanted to arrest the bus driver because he had a Class 2 driver’s licence instead of a Class 1 driver’s license required to drive buses.

Cases of excessive use of force have been continuously documented following the return of private commuter omnibus operators in major city centres. Police officers working with Municipal Police and members of the Zimbabwe National Army have descended on the errant commuter omnibus operators with heavy handedness resulting in the damage of vehicle wind screens. Private vehicles have not been spared. They are usually targeted for ferrying people without facemasks. 

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 8 October 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
Arrests529Masvingo, 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
Abductions12Chitungwiza, Bulawayo, Harare, Gweru, Hopley
Gunshots2Chitungwiza, Bulawayo
Extra-judicial Killing1Hurungwe
Raids8Chitungwiza, Bulawayo, Harare, Mkoba Gweru
Displacement57Banket, Harare
Harassment, threat, intimidation2Harare

Court Update

The right to health
Justice Edith Mushore of the Harare High Court granted an order instructing the City of Harare to immediately ensure that all pregnant women receive emergency medical services and that all council clinics begin to offer such services by 14 October 2020.  This followed an application by residents represented by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, seeking to ensure the provision of health services at municipal clinics which the City had closed to the public after the national lockdown was put in place.

The right to personal liberty
On 7 October, Justice Esther Muremba ordered the release from prison of Joana Mamombe, the MP for Harare West Constituency.  Honourable Mamombe had spent close 13 days locked up in prison whilst awaiting medical evaluation after failing to appear in court to stand trial on charges of communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the state.  The prosecution and persecution of Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova has been on going since the trio were first arrested following a protest staged in Warren Park D, after the lockdown was implemented in March 2020.

The right to shelter
Justice Amy Tsanga of the Harare High Court granted an order against the Chitungwiza Town Council to immediately stop all demolitions that it was conducting in the Chitungwiza and Manyame area.  This followed an application by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum which represented some individual residents together with Chitungwiza Rates and Residents Trust. The Town council had announced intention to demolish 2007 structures which would have left many families without shelter under the lockdown.

Conclusion
The Forum remains extremely concerned by the conduct of police and other law enforcement officers, who continue to use excessive force during law enforcement.  The latest reported incident.  In light of the above the Forum urgently calls upon the Minister of Home Affairs, the Commissioner-General of Police, and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to:

  • Ensure that those responsible for endangering the lives of the people in this latest incident are arrested, fully prosecuted, and held accountable for their actions through the criminal justice system. They should also face internal disciplinary procedures.
  • Ensure that members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police immediately stop perpetrating human rights violations including but not limited to beatings, excessive use of force, torture and abductions and the intimidation of civilians.
  • Ensure that the Zimbabwe Republic Police develops a code of conduct for the police which aligns with the minimum standards of conduct in the Luanda Guidelines; is based on the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (SARPCCO) Code of Conduct and addresses issues of implementation of the law through a review and revision of current training, and a strengthening of internal disciplinary systems.

The Forum also remains concerned about the labour dispute between teachers and the government which has remained unresolved for a long time.  Access to education was severely impacted by the lockdown and as more pupils return to school, the Forum urges the parties involved to meaningfully engage with each other so as to come up with effective strategies to solve the long drawn out labour dispute. 

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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