Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report 25-26 May 2020 – Days 57 and 58

1.0       Introduction

FILE PHOTO: A man is tested by a healthcare worker during a nationwide lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a mass screening centre, in Harare, Zimbabwe April 30, 2020. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Monday 25 May 2020 was Africa Day, a day set aside to commemorate the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on the 25 May 1963.  President Mnangagwa addressed the nation.  In his address he challenged Africa to pursue the vision of the founding fathers and promote economic integration and sustainable development for the continent.  In his address to the nation marking the 57th anniversary of the founding of the Organization for African Unity, now the African Union, on May 25, 1963, Mnangagwa commended Africans for defending the continent’s independence.Tuesday 26 May was day 57 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 that four hundred and thirty-five (435) tests were conducted. This increased the cumulative tests to thirty-seven thousand four hundred and seventy-four (37 474). Of these, thirty-seven thousand four hundred and eighteen (37 418) were negative. The number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases remained to fifty-six (56) while recoveries remained at twenty-five (25) and the death toll remains at four (4).

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

  • Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)
  • Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
  • Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
  • Counselling Services Unit (CSU)
  • Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR)
  • Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights)
Excerpts from reports generated by Community Radio Harare have also been incorporated into this report.
3.0       Emerging issues 
          3.1       General updates
Village health workers in Mudzi have indicated that they at risk of contracting COVID-19 during the course of their duties as they do not have personal protective equipment or sanitisers. Health workers at Nyamanyora Clinic indicated that the clinic had run out of gloves and other protective equipment. The health workers indicated that they have resorted to using homemade facemasks as they discharge their duties since the government is not providing them with the required protective equipment.In Nyanga at Avilla, Councillor Mr Dzawanda convened a consultative meeting in to explain the processes and requirements pertaining to the food distributions that will be conducted by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. The councillor also highlighted that beneficiaries should pay a fee of USD1 for transport. The meeting had an attendance of more than 300 people and most of the people were not wearing face masks.

Chipinge Town Council demolished illegal structures in Gaza high density suburb. The illegal structures mainly consist of vending stalls and blair toilets. It was reported that people from Gaza high density suburbs have no running water hence they use blair toilets for ablution purposes.

3.2       Lockdown enforcement
In most major towns and cities across Zimbabwe, law enforcement officers have maintained checkpoints where they verify exemption letters and other COVID-19 regulations such as face masks.

In Highfield in Harare, it was reported that there was a violent clash between law enforcement officers and informal traders at Gazaland. Reports claimed that soldiers raided some of the informal traders who are operating in defiance with the lockdown. However, it was reported that the informal traders retaliated violently against the soldiers and other enforcement officers. It was reported that informal traders threw stones and bottles towards the law enforcement officers. In retaliation, police officers fired teargas canisters to disperse the crowds.

According to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) official Twitter page, police officers arrested 40 682 since the beginning of the lockdown on 30 March 2020. According to the report, between 18 to 23 May, over 1 219 people were arrested in separate incidents countrywide. Most of those arrested violated movement restrictions. 14 were arrested for liquor-related offences, 43 under the Road Traffic Act, 68 for opening businesses without exemption letters, 754 for unnecessary movements, 15 for gathering, while 274 for failing to wear masks. Some of the suspects were fined amounts ranging between ZWL200 and ZWL500, while others are yet to appear in court.

           3.2       Right to water
In Bulawayo, it was reported that there is an upsurge in diarrhoeal cases since the start of the lockdown. It was reported that the Bulawayo City Council has introduced a 6-day water rationing program. It was also reported that when residence receive water, the water usually has a foul smell. It was reported that the city council has received reports from community members particularly from Luveve high density suburb and surrounding areas, of people getting sick from tap water when supplies are restored.

In Kuwadzana in Harare, community members indicate that tap water supplied by the Harare City Council was not safe to drink. In video footage widely viewed on social media, that was captured on 26 May in Kuwadzana 7 water coming from the tapes was black in colour. Residence also indicated that the water looked and smelled like raw sewer. Similarly, residence in Norton petitioned the Norton Town Council to provide portable water to prevent the spreading of COVID-19 since some locations have not received water since 2006.

          3.3       Mandatory testing and quarantine
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Nick Mangwana, indicated that Mashonaland East province has 167 returnees in its 4 quarantine centres with 16 more expected on 25 May 2020. Mashonaland East has 2 active positive COID-19 cases. One woman is at the Marondera hospital isolation centre and is stable while the other is self-isolating at home in Murehwa.

Meanwhile, it was reported that the temporary isolation/treatment centre at Mkoba 1 Clinic in Gweru which has a capacity of 20 patients is ready for COVID-19 patients. It was further reported that 3 returnees are already under observation at the centre.

It was reported that government has given returnees in COVID-19 quarantine facilities the option to have their tests done at authorized private laboratories. This comes as government has been failing to do PCR tests on time due to reagents and swabs shortages. Under normal circumstances, PCR tests are supposed to be done on day eight after arrival in the country. Health Minister Obadiah Moyo said that returnees who are unhappy with the slow screening process can now have their tests done at private laboratories for a fee.

In Chivi, 3 female returnees who absconded mandatory quarantine by jumping the border from South Africa were apprehended by authorities and sent to a quarantine facility in Masvingo. It was reported that community members alerted authorities in fear of contracting COVID-19.

            3.4       Re-opening of academic institutions  
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) has raised alarm on some of the challenges that teachers will face after schools reopen on 1 June as planned. ZIMTA submitted a list of questions to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Schools. The following are the questions that ZIMTA has referred to the government:

  • How safe am I if schools are opened? Are students’ books safe to mark?
  • Do I get free medication if I get COVID19 at work?
  • Is my family compensated if I die after getting COVID19 at school?
  • Will I get risk allowance when schools open?
  • Is it worth it to die for 40 USD which is not enough to feed, clothe and shelter my family?
  • Will I be able to teach six 35 minutes period classes in a day with a face mask on?
  • I have other health conditions that may affect me in this COVID19 pandemic and I am supposed to teach my Ordinary level classes? How do I go about it?

The government is yet to respond to these questions. Meanwhile, ZIMTA has indicated that teachers under their ambit will not be resuming work until these questions are answered.

According to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Nick Mangwana, in preparation for the re-opening of schools and colleges, the government has identified alternative centres to use for quarantining returnees. He further indicated that schools and colleges which are currently in use as quarantine centres will be disinfected before they are re-opened for use by learners. However, no further details were provided relating to the identified alternative isolation centres.

                 3.5       Abduction update
The Minister of Foreign Affairs General Sibusiso Moyo through a press statement dated 25 May indicated that the abduction of MDC female officials was a stage-managed theatrical display meant to tarnish the image of the government. Minister Moyo further added that the trio had violated the terms of the lockdown by staging an authorised demonstration. In the statement, Minister Moyo suggested that there is a third force behind the abductions and assault of the trio.

On 26 May, ZRP charged Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova for violating Section 37 of the Criminal Code gathering with intent to promote public violence, breach of peace and Section 5(3) and (1) of COVID-19 Regulations SI99 of 20 on gatherings. The charges come at a time when the trio is receiving treatment following their abduction, disappearance and torture on 13 May. No arrests have been made to date for the enforced disappearance, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment suffered by the trio.   MDC Alliance Harare West Member of Parliament Honourable Joana Mamombe and Youth Assembly leaders Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova went missing on 13 May and were located dumped in Bindura on 14 May.

Also related to this incident, the ZRP arrested and charged Lovejoy Chitengu, who is the Youth Organising Secretary for the MDC Alliance for also violating Section 37 of the Criminal Code gathering with intent to promote public violence, breach of peace and Section 5(3) and (1) of  COVID-19 Regulations SI99 of 20 on gatherings.

3.6       Transport Challenges
Due to lockdown regulations that do not allow travelling between cities, citizens have resorted to using trucks for transportation between towns and cities. As a result, the Ministry of Health and Child Care has noted that truck drivers passing through the country with essential cargo have become a COVID-19 risk. It was noted that as soon as they get cleared at Beitbridge Border Post, truck drivers carry passengers from Beitbridge to different cities across the country and most of these passengers are border jumpers.  There are allegations that the trucks are also being used by those who would have absconded from mandatory quarantine into various destinations within the country. In response, the ZRP has increased its surveillance searching for unauthorised passengers at checkpoints, roadblocks and patrols.

In Harare, transport challenges continue to bedevil community members as they try to access the CBD for work. Reports from Chitungwiza indicate that hordes of community members were observed at Junction C and most bus stops waiting for the scarce ZUPCO buses. In Glen Norah in Harare, it was also reported that community members experienced challenges in accessing transport to access the CBD. ZUPCO buses in most towns across the country are too few to cater for the transportation of people given the ban on commuter omnibuses. Community members have resorted to waking up as early as 4 am to be able to get to work on time. The situation is particularly unbearable for women and persons with disabilities who continue to endure long queues. Further, ZUPCO buses are not disability friendly hence persons with disabilities constantly experience challenges when accessing them.

4.0 Arrests
In Gweru, it was reported that fifteen (15) people were arrested and taken to Gweru Central Police Station. It was reported that the people were arrested for not wearing face masks, whilst others were arrested for loitering without having exemption letters. Only five (5) of the people were released after paying an admission of guilt fine of ZWL200. However, the status of the other ten (10) people is yet to be ascertained.

In Karoi, ZRP officers arrested at least sixteen (16) people for violating the lockdown by drinking alcohol in a bar. According to reports, patrons of a bar in Chiedza residential areas were caught unaware by police officers drinking alcohol in the bar. However, the patrons locked the doors from inside such that police officers could not arrest them. In response, police officers fired two teargas canisters into the bar to force out the patrons. The arrested persons were taken to Karoi central police station, however, details regarding the status of the arrested persons are yet to be ascertained.

5.0 Assault
In Chivhu, it was reported that armed members of the Zimbabwe National Army stormed Seequick Shop and assaulted five (5) people with fists and baton sticks. Among the people that were assaulted were two (2) CID Police officers who were assaulted for allegedly not putting on face masks properly. The soldiers also randomly assaulted everyone in the shop without asking questions. According to the Mirror newspaper, three (3) civilians were also assaulted during the crackdown by soldiers. The three (3) civilians have since reported their cases at Chivhu Police Station.

6.0 Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 26 May 2020.

Nature of Violation Number of Victims Location
Assault 258 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 16 Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge
Arrests 369 Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange, Murwi
Malicious Damage to Property 2 Harare, Chitungwiza
Missing persons/Abductions 3 Harare
7.0       Court Update
The Zimbabwe Online Content Creators Trust (ZOCC) filed an urgent chamber application with the High Court seeking an order for suspension of the Zimbabwe Media Commission’s (ZMC) accreditation process set to commence in Harare on 26 May 2020. In its application filed by lawyer, Richard Manwick Dhaka of Atherstone and Cook, on 25 May 2020, ZOCC says the matter is urgent because the accreditation process by the ZMC is set to proceed based on categories that are not provided for at law
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights secured the release of journalists Frank Chikowore and Samuel Takawira after they appeared at Mbare Magistrates Court. The pair were given a ZWL 500 bail each in a case where they are charged with breaking the country’s COVID-19 lockdown regulations. It is the state’s case that the two journalists broke COVID-19 regulations when they entered a hospital to interview the three members of the MDC Alliance who were being treated for injuries sustained after being abducted and tortured by suspected security agents.  The matter was postponed to 15 June 2020.8.0       Conclusion
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum calls upon law enforcement agencies to increase surveillance, especially in the border towns to curb the likely transmission of COVID-19 cases from border jumpers and truck drivers.  The Forum also calls on members of the public to ensure relatives coming from other countries go through the mandatory quarantine so as not to spread the COVID-19.

The Forum reiterates the calls for government to provide adequate transportation for community members. Currently, bus terminus in town centres and in the suburbs have become a risk factor as people are queueing for extended periods of time for busses without maintaining social distance.

The Forum calls on the government to immediately stop the continuous persecution of Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova. Rather.  The government should instead divert its wrath to finding the so-called “third force” that abducted and tortured the trio.

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