Thursday 11 June 2020 marked day 74 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 an increase in the number of confirmed cases increased to three hundred and thirty-two (332). The number of cumulative tests done stood at fifty-six thousand seven hundred and forty-six (56 746). Of these, fifty-six thousand four hundred and fourteen (56 414) were negative. The number of recoveries increased to fifty-one (51) 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 The Herald and Bulawayo24 have also been incorporated into this report. 3.0 Emerging issues 3.1 General Updates
It was reported that President Emmerson Mnangagwa will address the nation on 12 June 2020 concerning the country’s COVID-19 lockdown situation amid growing impatience among some locals who have been shut out of their informal sector jobs in a tough lockdown regime. Zimbabwe has been on lockdown for 74 days with authorities taking a phased approach to reopen the economy. President Mnangagwa last month extended the country’s lockdown indefinitely and announced that his administration shall review the lockdown measures every two weeks. 12 June will be the third week since he announced plans to proceed by two-week reviews. 3.2 Transport Update
The Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Mashonaland West, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka reported that President Mnangagwa will launch the ZUPCO Urban Buses initiative in Chinhoyi. The launch seeks to address transport challenges, particularly in the towns.Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister Richard Moyo indicated that the road network in Nkayi does not allow heavy vehicles to access the starving communities Matabeleland North province. The government indicated that due to the road network, they cannot deliver COVID-19 food relief to citizens in Nkayi.The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) spokesperson Garikai Chaunza whilst addressing journalists indicated that truck drivers transporting maize from South Africa to Zimbabwe were picking up passengers and travelling with women, fuelling the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile, forty-seven (47) truck drivers have been arrested for ferrying passengers in violation of COVID-19 lockdown regulations. In a statement, National Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi indicated that the Police National Traffic Unit has been deployed to deal with truck drivers violating the lockdown. He further indicated that some of the 47 truck drivers were fined, while others are expected to appear in court soon. 3.3 Mandatory Quarantine Update
Nine (9) returnees who evaded mandatory quarantine and hid in their rural homes in Centenary and Mt Darwin have been found and returned to Madziwa Quarantine Centre. It was reported that the nine (9) returnees who came from Mozambique and South Africa recently, were arrested after community members alerted the authorities. Three (3) of the returnees, escaped in Kadoma on 8 June and the other four (4) returned to the country illegally from Mozambique and hid in Centenary. The remaining two came into the country from Mozambique through Mukumbura Village in Mashonaland Central and hid in Mt Darwin, they were taken to St Albert’s Hospital Quarantine Centre.
A report titled Assessment of COVID-19 Quarantine Facilities in Zimbabwe compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) together with the Ministry of Health and Child Care from 17 to 21 May 2020 concluded that quarantine centres in Zimbabwe are not operating optimally. According to the report, the quarantine centres in Zimbabwe have poor standards including lack of standard operating procedures. This report comes as the majority of COVID-19 confirmed cases relate to returnees in quarantine centres.
3.4 Reopening of schools update
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) issued a statement on 11 June 2020 on the education sector preparedness to re-open schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ZHRC stated that the government closed schools when the country only had four (4) confirmed COVID-19 cases but a decision is being made to re-open schools when cases have spiralled beyond three hundred (300). According to the ZHRC, the decision to open schools brings to question, the issue of the best interests of the child as enshrined in Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 3 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and Section 81 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
The ZHRC noted a gap in the dissemination of information relating to re-opening of schools by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, to educators, learners, parents and guardians across the country. School administrators and other educators raised concerns over inconsistencies in information being disseminated by different Government officials (through official social media platforms, print and electronic media), which they said was causing a lot of confusion amongst them. The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services as well as the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education have been concurrently issuing out statements on reopening of schools. Some of the statements have been inconsistent.
According to the ZHRC, educators raised serious concerns over their safety and enjoyment of the right to health. They indicated that once schools open, they would be exposed to mass infections, due to the influx of students coming from different homes and backgrounds, as well as getting in contact with learning materials such as books when they mark them.
The ZHRC recommended that there should be one State mouthpiece which disseminates the government’s position to avoid inconsistencies and contradictions relating to the re-opening of schools. The ZHRC also recommended that the government should ensure that thorough COVID-19 screening is carried out as opposed to mere measurement of body temperature. The ZHRC further recommended that there should be periodic testing of learners and teachers before and after schools have reopened to cater for the window periods of COVID-19.
The ZHRC recommended that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education provide schools with clear guideline, checklists and a comprehensive work plan with timelines, concerning the opening of schools, specifying the responsible actors as well as types and sources of resources required for each aspect of the preparatory process. It was also recommended that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in liaison with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development consider the allocation of risk allowances to educators and at the same time ensuring that schools have safe and secure working environments.
4.0 Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 11 June 2020.
6.0 Court Update
The urgent chamber application filed by Alice Kuvheya and Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association against the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Senate President been set down for hearing on 16 June 2020 before Justice Mangota in the High Court in Harare. The applicants are seeking an urgent order to interdict Parliament of Zimbabwe holding public hearings concerning Constitutional Amendment No.2 Bill until the lockdown is lifted.
The Forum is concerned with the growing number of COVID-19 confirmed cases at the backdrop of the reopening of schools and tertiary institutions. The Forum urges the government to adequately prepare for the reopening of schools to avoid the spread of the pandemic within academic institutions.
The Forum is concerned with the growing number of citizens defying the lockdown at a time when confirmed COVID-19 cases are on the increase. The Forum, therefore, urges community members to abide by lockdown regulations relating to social distance and the wearing of masks. Conditions in quarantine centres need to be improved to meet World Health Organisation standards to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in isolation centres. Finally, the Forum welcomes the decision by the President to address the nation.