Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals is the largest medical institution in
Zimbabwe and its main hospital – a complex maze of charcoal grey
buildings built before Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 - is located
a few kilometres shy of Harare’s city centre, a distance that is
walkable for many.
Upon entering the foyer in the casualty department, the first
noticeable thing is the large number of people.
Dozens sit on the rows of the benches to the left while many others
are either milling around or sitting all over the place, while others
stand in the reception area, sorting out administrative issues with the
A nurse checks blood pressure and temperature of the incoming
patients on one part of the foyer.
There is a strong sense of hopelessness, despair and the fatigue on
the many faces is too much to be ignored.
Today, I am here to join family members who have come to process
the paperwork for the burial of my auntie who died a day after being
admitted to the COVID-19 section of the hospital.
We are headed towards the police post within the hospital complex
and on the way is the entrance to the mortuary. The strong,
traumatising stench in that area suggests poor ventilation and
improper handling of the morgue.
As we reach the police post, I notice hordes of people waiting
outside, waiting to collect burial orders for their dead relatives.
In Zimbabwe, a burial order is a document approving the burial of a
deceased person, and it often has the authorization of a doctor,
pathologist, the police and next of kin.
Inside the police post, are two officers and a pathologist, all sitting
on chairs, processing papers.
There is no doubt the three are going beyond their limits to deal with
the dozens of people eagerly waiting outside.
We submit my aunt’s papers and the police officer politely tells us
that since she was in the COVID-19 ward, she will not get a post
“ But when she was admitted, she had received negative results from
the two tests conducted at a private hospital and when we came
here, she never got tested for COVID-19, so what leads to that
conclusion?” we enquire.
The pathologist weighs in.
“All bodies that come from the COVID-19 ward do not get post
mortems,” he says.
Later on, we discover that anyone who is admitted to the hospital
exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19, be it a fever or breathing
complications, they are bundled to the COVID-19 ward even before
they are tested, and there, they are condemned with no access to any
As we waited for about an hour for our papers to be processed, over
five people came in to submit papers of their relatives who had died
of COVID-19- related complications.
When all was done, we collected our papers and all we know, without
any conclusive evidence, is that our aunt died of ‘COVID-19- related
complications’, and that is because she never tested positive, neither
was she tested posthumously.
In the end, my aunt becomes one of the statistics of COVID-19, and
still we are never sure of the cause of her death, and she joins the
many Zimbabweans whose deaths are not being fully accounted for
as government continues to keep a tight lid on how it is dealing with
contact tracing, testing of the deceased and their relatives, among
other procedures necessary to deal with COVID-19
The story of the death of my auntie speaks a great deal to how a lot
of corners are being cut to cover up for government’s failure to deal
In addition, it exposes government’s disjointed approach to the
pandemic, and whereas other countries such as South Africa have
already secured vaccines, the Zimbabwean government is still
appealing for funding and donations.
It goes beyond COVID-19
It must be noted that while COVID-19 is the major focus right now,
several months later when it set in and ravaged countries globally in
2020 other healthcare needs, such as medication for chronic diseases,
sexual and reproductive health services, among others, remain
inaccessible to the ordinary people.
Local clinics are charging a prohibitive US$5 consultation fee in some
The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has reiterated its call for genuine security
sector reforms following the recent upsurge of arrests and detention of
In its monthly monitoring report for the month of February, the human
rights pressure group says the conduct of security services has a bearing on
the country's politics.
"The conduct of the security services has a bearing on the political, social
and economic state of the country and government should therefore take
necessary measures to ensure that the security sector is reformed to be an
apolitical, professional and people-centred institution. This is because the
human rights violations that ZPP has continued to record in the past year, all
point to the members of the state security as the major perpetrators of
human rights violations," noted ZPP.
The pressure group urged the Government to deal with disparities in rural
areas by assigning distribution of aid to professionals in the civil service.
"Government should also act to deal with the inequalities in communities especially rural areas- where some services and processes like the
distribution of aid, are politicised, and where political party activists control
such processes, which should be left in the hands of professional
"Zimbabweans are, in essence, under attack from their own government. In
light of the sustained attack on civil society players, political party activists
and any perceived government and ruling party opponents, there is an
urgent need to mobilise critical democratic forces for joint actions to compel
the government of Zimbabwe to return to constitutionalism, democracy and
security sector reforms.
Government should implement the Constitution to its fullest and that
includes Section 210, which stipulates that there must be an Act of
Parliament to provide an effective and independent mechanism for receiving
and investigating complaints from members of the public about misconduct
on the part of members of the security services, and for remedying any harm
caused by such misconduct. This act is long overdue as it will provide room
for the thousands of Zimbabweans whose rights have been violated with
impunity by state security agents," said the group.
According to the report The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), contributed to
12.12 percent of perpetrators in February 2021, and they come second after
the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), who contributed 59.66 percent.