Zimbabwe Covid-19 Lockdown Weekly Monitoring Report: 24 – 28 January 2020, Days 21 – 25

Introduction

This report covers the period Monday 25 January 2021 to Thursday 28 January 2021 of the national lockdown period that was declared by the Minister of Health and Child Care, Vice President Constantine Chiwenga on 2 January 2021. The 30 day national lockdown will be in effect from 5 January 2021 to 3 February 2021. As of Thursday 28 January 2021, the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 32 646, with 342 new cases being reported on the same day. The death toll increased to 1160, with 38 deaths being reported on the day.

Methodology

This report encompasses reports gathered nationally by the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), Counselling Services Unit (CSU), and excerpts from a report generated by the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR).

Lockdown defiance and enforcement

Citizens across the nation continue to defy the national lockdown in pursuit of economic activities to sustain their livelihoods. This is mainly driven by the lack of a national program to cushion citizens from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Bindura, police officers arrested a bar manager who was selling alcohol in defiance of the national lockdown regulations. The bar manager was fined ZWL 20 000 by Bindura Magistrate, Ethel Chichera.

It was also reported that ZANU-PF Councilor for Guruve North, Rangani Nzvimbo, distributed Pfumvunza farming inputs at Negomo Primary School in ward 19 in defiance of the national lockdown regulations. It was reported that most of the beneficiaries were not wearing face masks and that there was no sanitizing or social distancing being observed. Despite the importance of food and agricultural aid distribution, the COVID-19 national regulations should take precedence.

Due to the increase in cases of fake exemption letters, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) deployed senior officers to supervise checkpoints along all major roads. In a memo directed to all officers and commanding districts, the Officer Commanding Harare Province directed police officers not to allow vehicles without exemption letters to pass through checkpoints. In the memo, the police also took note of companies that were conducting business despite not falling within the category of essential services.

The deployment of senior ZRP officers also comes at a time when the government has gazetted new fine structures for offenses. The new fines have doubled, such that the fines for breaching the COVID-19 national lockdown regulations have increased from ZWL 500 to ZWL 1000.

Meanwhile, the ZRP reported the arrest of 15 people who were part of a group of more than 100 people, who attended a birthday party in violation of the national lockdown regulations, at a house in the Nkulumane suburb of Bulawayo. In a similar incident, police officers arrested 200 teenagers who attended a party in Westgate, Harare, in open contravention of the COVID-19 regulations.

General updates

Whilst informal trading, which is the source of livelihood for the majority of Zimbabweans, remains banned, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT) reported an increase in costs of living. According to ZIMSTAT, an ordinary family of five requires an average of ZWL24 935 to cover its monthly expenses. The agency reported that the Food Poverty Line (FPL) for a single person in January 2021 was ZWL 3,768.00, while the Total Consumption Poverty Line (TCPL) for a single person stood at ZWL 4,987.00 in the same month.

In a shocking development, 110 prisoners at Mutimurefu Prison in Masvingo tested positive for COVID-19. According to the Masvingo Provincial COVID-19 taskforce spokesperson, Rodgers Irimayi, of the 150 prisoners tested so far, 110 have tested positive. Mutimurefu is one of the largest prisons in the country. Zimbabwe’s overcrowded prisons are considered high risk for inmates. Recently, MDC Alliance spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, tested positive for COVID-19 pursuant to being released on bail after a week-long detention.

Lancet Laboratory Chief Executive, Charles Muronda, advised that there were alarming numbers of false COVID-19 test results due to a new strain of the virus which is difficult to detect during routine testing. According to Muronda, the emergence of the new strain of COVID-19 is evidence that the virus constantly mutates as a survival tactic. Muronda said the virus had adopted new genetic features that laboratories struggled to detect, particularly without the proper technology to isolate them. His sentiments came soon after several complaints were made on social media about people being given false-positive results at Lancet Laboratory, but testing negative elsewhere.

Court update

Darlington Marange, a COVID-19 patient, has taken the government to court. Marange contends that the recent burial restrictions by government violate his cultural beliefs in that, should he expire, he is culturally obligated to be buried at his rural home.

This comes after the Ministry of Health and Child Care, on 11 January 2021 imposed restrictions on the movement of COVID-19 victims and directed that a body should be buried in the city where death would have occurred. Through his lawyers from Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Marange told the court that he comes from Mutare and his African traditional beliefs demand that he should be buried in his rural home in Marange. He cited the Health Minister and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga and Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe as respondents. He seeks an order for the burial restrictions to be declared unconstitutional and the directive suspended.

Chief Justice Luke Malaba, through Practice Directive 2 of 2021 announced that lawyers and litigants filing urgent chamber and bail applications at superior courts are no longer allowed to attend hearings in order to make oral representations or arguments in response to the 30-day national lockdown regulations. The new regulations are set to remain in effect until the expiry of the Level IV lockdown period. Litigants are also barred from filing any new court applications, save for urgent applications and bail applications. In a statement, CJ Malaba stated that the new practice direction applied to the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, High Court, Labour Court, and Administrative Court.

Assault and torture

On 23 January 2021, Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) officers from 2-1 brigade housed at Mt Darwin assaulted Tafadzwa Chipinga and others for alleged unnecessary loitering. It is alleged that Chipinga and a number of other people were purchasing groceries when soldiers appeared and indiscriminately started assaulting them with sjamboks.

On 27 January 2021, police officers assaulted three people in Mkoba 1, Gweru with baton sticks for not wearing face masks. The three were assaulted just outside the residence of Ezra Mkosi. The 3 were marched towards Mkoba 1 Police Camp. Reports indicate that the trio was subsequently released after paying ZWL 500 admission of guilt fines.

On 28 January 2021, police officers assaulted an unarmed civilian with baton sticks before subduing him and placing him in handcuffs at a checkpoint in Ardbenie Harare. It is alleged that the man failed to produce an exemption letter, resulting in the police officers dragging him from his vehicle leading to the ensuing assault. The man was taken to Mbare Stoddart Police Station where he was later released without charge.

Summary of Violations

The table below summarises COVID-19 related human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 5 January 2021 to 28 January 2021.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assaults and Torture19Hwange, Binga, Bulawayo, Chipinge, Fig tree, Gweru, Mt Darwin, Harare
Arbitrary arrests25Gweru, Nkulumane
Attacks against journalists1Harare

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

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