A health worker screens and sanitises visitors to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outside a hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe March 26, 2020. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
On Wednesday 3 June 2020 which marked day 66 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 two hundred and twenty-two (222). The number of cumulative tests done stood at forty-nine thousand six hundred and three (49 603). Of these, forty-nine thousand three hundred and eighty-one (49 381) were negative. The number of recoveries remained at twenty-nine (29) and the death toll remains at four (4). It has been four days since the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on COVID-19 headed by Vice-President Kembo Mohadi was supposed to address the nation on the fortnightly review. There are still no indications of when the review will be announced. 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, The Herald and Bulawayo24 have also been incorporated into this report.
3.0 Emerging issues 3.1 General Updates
As transport challenges continue to plague commuters, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi addressing Parliament reported that the government will not be providing buses for intercity travels due to the risk of spreading COVID-19. This announcement follows an announcement by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa that the ZUPCO buses would now be allowed to carry maximum capacity subject to what she said are health guidelines among them that the buses would be disinfected after every trip. Since 30 March when the national lockdown was instituted, commuters have been unable to travel between cities. This has led to the majority of intercity commuters resorting to long-distance trucks for transport. However, the use of long-distance trucks for travelling is a risk factor given the exposure that the truck drivers are subjected to as they cross between countries.
The Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Mr James Manzou advised Parliament that government no longer has resources to repatriate Zimbabweans affected by COVID-19 abroad. Mr Manzou added the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade never had a budget for repatriations but had engaged the business community and well-wishers for assistance. Mr Manzou further explained that a request for US$300 000.00 from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to buy tickets for Zimbabweans in China had not been approved.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) blocked a ZANU PF demonstration that had been scheduled for 4 June 2020 to protest against sanctions on Zimbabwe and the brutal killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in the United States. ZANU PF had written to the police advising them of their intention to conduct the demonstration, but Officer Commanding Harare Suburban District, Chief Superintendent Smart Matongo turned down the request citing COVID-19 regulations.
According to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) through a press statement, the cost of living in Zimbabwe increased by ZWL1 554 to ZWL8 726 by end of May due to the influence of the parallel market on exchange rates, limited supply of basic products and panic buying by consumers because of the lock-down. A survey conducted by the CCZ showed that the cost of living for a family of six shot up by 22% to ZWL8 726 in May, against an average monthly income of a civil servant which hardly goes beyond $3 000. In April, the figure stood at ZWL7 171. The food basket increased by ZWL1 435 to ZWL5 552 by the end of May.
In Kasanga Village in Rushinga it was reported that the ZANU PF Councillor Joseph Chiputura was distributing food on partisan lines. It was alleged that he advised the village heads from his area that all food relief from the government should be given to ZANU PF party members only. It was also reported that he told the village heads to write the name of the ZANU PF affiliates on top and he also said that those who support the MDC risk not receiving any food aid.
3.2 Lockdown enforcement
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister, Mr Kazembe Kazembe addressing Parliament, indicated that more security personnel have been deployed at borders and ports of as part of efforts to prevent illegal border crossing by people unwilling to go through the mandatory 21-day quarantine. Minister Kazembe further indicated that ninety-four (94) border jumpers have been arrested since the start of the national lockdown. The Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry Mr Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu who is also part of the Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on the COVID-19 outbreak also echoed the need for law enforcement agents to curtail illegal border jumpers. Addressing the media, he said border jumpers were a major threat to the country as they were not going through necessary testing and mandatory quarantine.
Nationally, police officers and soldiers at checkpoints were turning away motorists and ordering commuters to disembark from ZUPCO buses for verification of exemption letters. Commuters without satisfactory exemption letters were turned back. Long queues of motorists at checkpoints were also observed at most of the police checkpoints around Harare. In Harare suburbs, police officers and soldiers were observed patrolling and dispersing vendors who have resorted to selling commodities from their car boots and yards.
3.3 Reopening of schools- update
Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education School Mrs Thumisang Thabela advised that lessons for primary and secondary schools will be broadcast on radio and television, as well as being published online over the next six months. Speaking at the launch of the program, Mrs Thabela indicated that the Ministry is preparing emergency learning modules to use for at least six months which includes radio, online and hopefully in the near future television lessons.
4.0 Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 2 June 2020.
5.0 Court Update
The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) has been ordered by the High Court sitting in Harare to suspend its accreditation process following an urgent application instituted by the Zimbabwe Online Content Creators Trust (ZOCC). Justice Happias Zhou ordered the suspension on 3 June 2020. The High Court judge said the ZMC should also not proceed with implementation of its proposed new categories for accreditation. In granting the interim relief sought by ZOCC, which was represented by lawyer Chris Mhike of Atherstone and Cook, the court said accreditation may only proceed after completion of ongoing consultations with the applicant (ZOCC) and other relevant stakeholders. ZOCC filed the urgent chamber application on 25 May 2020, seeking an order for suspension of the ZMC’s accreditation process which was set to commence in Harare on 26 May 2020. In its application, ZOCC said the matter was urgent because the accreditation process by the ZMC was set to proceed on the basis of categories that are not provided for at law. The issue of accreditation is vital to the practice of journalists and to the right to access to information as media practitioners and journalists have been categorised as essential services during the lockdown period.
In another matter, MDC Alliance Youth Assembly Chairperson Obey has been granted ZWL$1000 bail after he appeared before Harare Magistrates Court today. Mr Sithole spent the night at Harare Central Police Station after being arrested on 2 June 2020 on charges of participating in an unsanctioned demonstration. His lawyers Obey Shava and Jeremiah Bamu told journalists that Sithole was asked to surrender his passport and to report once every fortnight at Harare Central Police CID law and order.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police and the National Prosecuting Authority have filed an application for an order varying the bail conditions of Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova. The police allege that the three are planning to escape Zimbabwe and therefore are requesting the court to order them to surrender their passports. The three were arrested for violating lockdown regulations and staging a demonstration on 13 May 2020.
Justice Muzofa of the High Court of Zimbabwe have ordered the Minister of Health and Child Care to improve the deplorable conditions at isolation and quarantine centres in Zimbabwe. In the order, the Judge ordered the Ministry to ensure segregated sanitary and hygienic conditions for everyone and also to ensure proper control and protection for all persons in the centres. The order was granted following an application made to the court by the Zimbabwe Doctors Association for Human Rights.
The Forum notes that the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on COVID-19 headed by Vice-President Kembo Mohadi has not yet addressed the nation following the lapse of the first 2 weeks since the President announced the indefinite extension of the lockdown. This is undesirable as it causes uncertainty and anxiety among Zimbabweans many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet during the lockdown. As such the Forum calls on the task force to remedy this and consistently communicate with the nation in fulfilment of its mandate.
As the cost of living continues to increase in the country, the Forum urges the government to fast track the COVID-19 food relief program for vulnerable communities. The Forum also urges the government to investigate and deal with cases of partisan distribution of food in wake of the increasing cost of living.