‘Police, army risk spreading COVID-19’

Source: ‘Police, army risk spreading COVID-19’ | Newsday (News)

SOLDIERS and police enforcing the 21-day national lockdown risk contracting and spreading COVID-19 as they continue operating without protective clothing, it has emerged.

BY MOSES MATENGA

The fears came as the officers continue enforcing the lockdown without personal protective clothing, while getting into close contact with civilians in the discharge of their duties, posing a danger to themselves and the people.

According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), two Chinhoyi residents, John Basopo and Grace Yona, made the request to the High Court to issue an interdict to prevent police and army officers from assaulting, rounding up residents and forcing them into crammed vehicles without observing social-distancing.

Basopo and Yona stated that they were worried that the army officers, who assaulted and tortured them, could have infected them with the deadly coronavirus as they were just assaulting them while their nose and mouths were not covered.

“The conduct of Zimbabwe Republic Police members and Zimbabwe National Army officers, while manifestly unlawful, also violated provisions of the law mandating the maintenance of social distancing to curb the transmission of the virus and placed them at great risk of contracting the virus.”

The two are represented by ZHLR lawyers Rudo Magundani and Paidamoyo Saurombe.

Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage minister Kazembe Kazembe, Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, Defence and War Veterans Affairs minister Oppah Muchinguri and Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Philip Valerio Sibanda were cited as respondents.

ZLHR executive director Roselyn Hanzi said they had monitored and observed the rounding up of citizens by the police, acting in common purpose and consent with some army officers, and being placed in crammed vehicles.

She said while Zimbabwe was in a state of national disaster, as declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, certain fundamental rights as enshrined in section 86(3) of the Constitution “remain sacrosanct and inviolable and that the police and army must continue to observe and uphold the right to life and the right to human dignity in the course of their duties during the national lockdown”.

Hanzi said she had observed that police officers have not been wearing protective clothing such as masks while discharging their duties which mean that if they are infected with the virus, they will easily spread to each other and to the public.

In South Africa, three members of the uniformed forces have tested positive to COVID-19, while results for 15 others are pending.

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