Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Weekly Monitoring Report29 August – 4 September 2020 – Days 153-160

1.0       Introduction     

                                                                             
This weekly report covers days between Saturday 29 August to Friday 4 September 2020 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and has been in place since 30 March 2020 respectively. By Friday 4 September, confirmed COVID-19 cases had increased to six thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven (6 837). The national recovery rate stood at 78% (5 345) whilst the death toll increased to two hundred and six (206).2.0       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)
 3.0       30th Post Cabinet Briefing
During the thirtieth post-cabinet press briefing, the Minister of Information and Publicity Senator Monica Mutsvangwa reported that Cabinet had agreed on the following:
  • The national COVID-19 testing strategy will continue to prioritise health professionals and frontline personnel including public transport drivers;
  • Cabinet approved the resumption of tourism operations whilst plans were underway to reopen airports starting with domestic flights before reopening for international flights.
  • Schools reopening dates are scheduled for 14 September for Cambridge examination classes and 28 September for ZIMSEC examination classes. Cabinet also approved that ZIMSEC examinations start on 1 December 2020. Meanwhile, standard operating procedures have been submitted to all schools.
4.0 Highlights
The National Association of Primary Heads (NAPH) chair Mrs Cynthia Khumalo confirmed that measures informed by World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines have been put in place to ensure schools reopen safely in phases without risking a spike in COVID-19 infections. Mrs Khumalo reported that in keeping with social distancing rules, classes will be broken into smaller groups handled by additional teachers already employed at schools, while examinations would be taken from more classrooms and spacious halls to minimise chances of spreading the virus. The President of the National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH), Mr Arthur Maposa, however, indicated that there were still concerns around testing, disinfection of schools and availability of transport. Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Mrs Tumisang Thabela advised that government will provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all learners when schools reopen, with Treasury releasing ZWL350 million to prepare learning institutions for safe reopening.Following the announcement of the reopening of schools by the Minister of Information and Publicity Senator Monica Mutsvangwa, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) yesterday told Parliament that they would only resume their duties during the COVID-19 period after the government has met their demands for better working conditions and guaranteed their safety.

The Midlands State University (MSU) advised first-year students to report for orientation on 31 August while dates for returning students will be advised in due course. MSU registrar Mr Tinashe Zishiri said the students would be expected to adhere to COVID-19 regulations prescribed by the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health and Child Care. Meanwhile, workers at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) have vowed not to return to work claiming they were incapacitated. In a letter to the vice-chancellor dated September 1, the workers reaffirmed their declaration of incapacitation that was announced on July 20, 2020.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) postponed public interviews of the 12 candidates vying for the five vacancies of judges of the Constitutional Court to ensure compliance with the COVID-19 regulations during the interviews, as well as the need to put in place the necessary technical systems to accommodate candidates who were living outside Zimbabwe. The interviews that were set to take place between Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 September at Meikles Hotel in Harare will now be held between September 28 and September 29.

Frustrated commuters in Bulawayo went to a Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) depot in the city to confront the public transporters managers after spending more than four hours waiting for transport at a city bus rank. Commuters advised that they arrive at ranks around 5 pm and by 8pm there were still no buses until they organised each other with commuters to march to the ZUPCO depot. Many commuting workers in the city often find themselves unable to comply with the dictates of the 8 pm curfew cut-off recently announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa as part of his government’s measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

A policeman has been arrested on allegations of issuing fake COVID-19 exemption letters to members of the public and two politicians. Constable Oswald Jonga who is based at Borrowdale Police Station was arrested after investigations revealed he issued the fake exemption letters to MDC-Alliance councillor for Harare’s Ward 16, Denford Ngadziore and political activist Prince Mandenga, among several other people in the city. He was allegedly using his personal computer and fake date stamps to produce the documents while charging people at least USD10 per letter.

The Acting Registrar-General Mr Henry Machiri has advised that children born after March 30 this year do not have birth certificates due to COVID-19 regulations. Addressing journalists in Harare recently, Mr Machiri advised that during the lockdown, only burial orders are being issued with the issuance of birth certificates being suspended despite the regulations in the Birth and Deaths Registration Act which stipulate that a child must be registered within 42 days, six weeks. However, no penalties will be levied for late registrations within the period.

According to the latest survey by Habakkuk Trust, some rural communities in Matabeleland have gone for over two months without receiving food aid from the department of social welfare and non-governmental organisations. COVID-19-induced lockdown regulations further compounded the food crisis as borders are closed since most people in the region were dependent on diaspora remittances and would access cheaper basic commodities in Botswana and South Africa with the help of cross-border transporters. However, the lockdown has seen an increase in vulnerable populations. The hardest-hit families were reportedly struggling to have a day’s meal with some even spending up to three days without proper staple food such as maize meal.

5.0 Displacement  
On 2 September, the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) demolished not less than 20 households near the National Sports Stadium in Harare. Reports indicate that between 35 to 40 soldiers in military uniforms and vehicles demolished the structures. Over 50 people including children were left homeless following the demolitions leaving them susceptible to COVID-19 and the elements.

On 30 August, 7 MDC Alliance activists in Banket fled their homes after unknown assailants armed with sjamboks and sticks harassed and threatened to assault them for allegedly mobilising supporters for the 31 July protests. The unknown assailants visited homes of the activists in Banket ward 23 with a white Toyota Hiace reg number AEG4350. It was verified that the unknown assailants maintained their presence in the area in search of the 7 activists. The 7 MDC Alliance activists fled their homes and spent the night in the bush in fear of victimization.

6.0 Arrests
On 31 August, police in Murehwa arrested and detained 15 vendors suspected of having cheered on MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa when he passed through the area on 29 August. The vendors, mostly women, were detained for over 4 hours before being fined between ZWL200 to ZWL500 under charges ranging from defying COVID-19 physical distancing regulations and obstructing the free movement of traffic and persons on the Harare-Nyamapanda Road.

7.0 Abductions
On 1 September, at around 10pm unknown assailants purporting to be police officers abducted Nickson Mpofu from his home after he threatened to publish names of Ministers who are working in cahoots with car rental companies to loot government funds. Mpofu was tortured and later dumped on 3 September near his home. The abduction comes after Impala Car Rentals was implicated in the abduction of Tawanda Muchechiwa in connection with the 31 July protests.

8.0 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 4 September 2020.

Nature of Violation Number of Victims Location
Assaults and Torture including dog bites 280 Harare, 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 Journalists 20 Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge, Bulawayo
Arrests 529 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
Abductions 12 Chitungwiza, Bulawayo, Harare, Gweru, Hopley
Gunshots 2 Chitungwiza, Bulawayo
Extra-judicial Killing 1 Hurungwe
Raids 8 Chitungwiza, Bulawayo, Harare, Mkoba Gweru
Displacement 57 Banket, Harare
9.0   Court Update
In separate hearings heard at the High Court of Zimbabwe, Mr Jacob Ngarivhume and Mr Hopewell Chin’ono have been finally granted bail after spending more than 40 days in prison.  The two were arrested in July 2020, for allegedly incitement to participate in a gathering with intent to promote public violence breaches of peace or bigotry as defined in section 187 (1) (a) (i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.10.0 Conclusion
The Forum remains concerned with the low levels of tests that have been conducted so far.  As we approach the 160 days mark, the Forum notes that the number of tests conducted compared to the population in Zimbabwe remains suboptimal.  The Forum, therefore, urges the government to increase the testing levels as testing and isolation of infected people remains one of the key methods of dealing with COVID-19.  As schools will be opened soon, the need to increase the levels of testing will become even more urgent to decrease the risk of contracting the virus for both learners and teachers.

Further, the Forum remains extremely concerned that abductions and enforced disappearances continue to be reported in Zimbabwe.  The Forum, therefore, calls on the government of Zimbabwe to put an end to this practice to completely investigate all reported cases and to bring perpetrators to account.  Further, the Forum urges the government of Zimbabwe to search for those who have disappeared and to provide reparations to victims and families where the State has been implicated in this heinous practice.

Although the Forum welcomes the release of Mr Ngarivhume and Mr Chin’ono, it notes with regret that the two spent more than a month in pretrial detention, which detention was unjustified and violated their right to liberty.

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