Tuesday 16 June 2020 marked day 79 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 to three hundred and ninety-one (391). The number of cumulative tests done stood at fifty-nine thousand seven hundred and ninety-four (59 794). Of these, fifty-nine thousand four hundred and three (59 403) were negative. The number of recoveries increased to sixty-two (62) 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 Lockdown Enforcement
During the post-Cabinet briefing on 16 June, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Ms Monica Mutsvangwa advised that the tightening of police checkpoints on roads leading into city and town centres observed in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Kwekwe was part of law enforcement measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. She added that the prevalence of soldiers and police officers on checkpoints was consistent with the directive of the COVID-19 National Taskforce to ensure that people stay at home if they had no essential business to conduct.
Meanwhile, in Bulawayo, commuters were turned back home by soldiers in full combat gear and police officers. It was reported that only medical professionals, security services and civil servants were allowed to gain entry into Bulawayo CBD. Commuters with exemption letters that are not from government institutions were turned away from the checkpoints. Soldiers first targeted people who had accessed the CBD in the morning to join queues at banks and money transfer agencies. ZUPCO buses refused to carry any passengers other than nurses, doctors and members of the security services. As a result of the sudden tightening of the lockdown restrictions, long queues were witnessed on roads leading into the city centre. It was alleged that soldiers were also tearing exemption letters presented to them by commuters. Most of the soldiers patrolling the city centre had face masks which covered the whole face. Prior to the elevated enforcement of the lockdown in Bulawayo on 16 June, it was reported that soldiers started dispersing and harassing people in fuel queues at Reigate around 11pm on 15 June.Similar reports of soldiers turning people away were also reported in Kwekwe and Gweru.
Appearing before the Health and Child Care Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, Commissioner-General of Police Godwin Matanga outlined challenges being faced by police officers enforcing the lockdown. Commissioner-General Matanga advised that police officers manning roadblocks and securing quarantine centres need more protective equipment, transport and food allowances. He added that police officers are at the frontline as they have been deployed to enforce the lockdown regulations, checking on the movement and sale of subsidised maize and keeping order in mining areas. However, they do not have enough protective equipment to help them from contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty.
Addressing journalists, the National Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi advised that the cumulative number of people arrested in connection with violating the national lockdown is now sixty-seven thousand four hundred and nineteen (67 419). The charges include unnecessary movement or failure to wear masks, and opening businesses without the required documents, among other offences.
3.2 General Updates
During the post-Cabinet briefing on 16 June, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Ms Monica Mutsvangwa advised that inter and intracity transport arrangements are being made to allow students to access their respective schools when they reopen. She added that the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development is developing guidelines that will assist schools in their preparations for operation as well as intercity passenger transport services. She also highlighted that a standard operating procedure in schools under COVID-19 had been circulated to all schools for them to input before the document is finalised.
The Forum received five (5) cases of assault in Bulawayo during the crackdown on commuters by soldiers. One (1) person was assaulted by soldiers with sjamboks in Entumbane at D Square road after he failed to produce an exemption letter. The person sustained injuries to his back and face as a result of the assault. In Bulawayo CBD four (4) people were also assaulted by soldiers with sjamboks at CBZ Bank, Belmont. It was reported that the four (4) people were queueing at the bank when three (3) soldiers jumped out of an army truck and indiscriminately assaulted them. The four people sustained various degrees of injuries as a result of the assault.
Seven (7) vendors along Fort and 2nd Street in Bulawayo near MDC Alliance provincial offices were arrested for allegedly defying the lockdown by operating without being registered. The vendors were transported to Bulawayo Central Police Station in an army truck. They were detained for over 3 hours before being released after paying an admission of guilt fine of ZWL500.
6.0 Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 16 June 2020.
7.0 Court Update
Justice Mangota dismissed the urgent application filed by Alice Kuvheya and the Chitungwiza and Manyame Residents Associations seeking to interdict Parliament from conducting public hearings on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill. The judge dismissed the application on the basis that citizens who felt disenfranchised from participating due to health concerns could make written submissions to Parliament as an alternative remedy to address their concerns. The Applicants had argued that conducting the hearings at a time when the country is reporting increased numbers of people testing positive to the coronavirus would set back efforts to curb the pandemic.
An application for an interdict filed by the Habakkuk Trust against the Clerk of Parliament and the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs from holding public hearings in Bulawayo concerning the proposed Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill was heard on 15 June 2020. Justice Nokhutula Moyo, reserved judgment on the application.
The Forum continues to reiterate concerns with the decision by Parliament to conduct public hearings during the current context where public gatherings are discouraged and a national lockdown is in force. As witnessed over the first 2 days of the public hearings, citizen participation is low in some areas due to the travel restrictions under level 2 of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Forum continues to reiterate the need for consistency in the enforcement of the national lockdown. This comes after the sudden stringent enforcement of the lockdown by law enforcement officers in Bulawayo, Gweru and Kwekwe without prior notice or reasonable motive. The Forum is also concerned with the deployment of soldiers and their involvement in civilian affairs amidst continuous allegations of assault and torture of citizens.