‘Human Rights in the midst of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic: Zim in state of neglect’
In March 2020 citizens were preoccupied with the Corona Virus Disease of 2019 (COVID-19) which wreaked havoc
across the globe with 301051 deaths being recorded as of 30 March. Zimbabwe, which also recorded a few official
cases proved to be ill-prepared to deal with the pandemic. The Wilkins hospital, which was designated as the main
referral centre for COVID-19 cases was not properly equipped to handle cases and had to be closed for
renovations. The President, Emmerson Mnangagwa called for a 21 day countrywide Lockdown as a way of
controlling the spread of the virus. However, there were no clear measures put in place to ensure every citizen,
particularly the less privileged, are able to go through the 21 days without facing survival challenges, especially
considering that Zimbabwe’s economy is largely informal and people survive from hand to mouth.
There was general apprehension among members of the society as government appeared to take a laid-back
approach in detecting and dealing the COVID-19 cases, leaving citizens without a full understanding of the impact
and implications of the disease.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor, Dr. John Mangudya announced that citizens could now transact
using the United States Dollar (USD) until further notice. This received mixed reactions from citizens, some of
whom believed the bank was taking advantage of COVID-19 to “sneak” back the USD.
During the first few days of the lockdown, there were widespread reports that pointed to harassment and beatings
of civilians by state security agents deployed to enforce the lockdown.
Videos and images emerged of police officers beating up people, confirming the fears expressed by the Zimbabwe
Peace Project (ZPP), and reaffirming the organisation’s position that police and enforcement agents are supposed
to conduct themselves in a professional and ethical way, and are supposed to carry out their activities with the
respect of human rights in mind.
ZPP recorded a total of 145 human rights violations during the month of March. These included COVID-19 related
violations, intimidation and harassment, discrimination, among others. A case of eviction of some family members
was reported at Kefalos Company in Seke district, and this was reportedly done as a way of preventing the spread
of COVID-19. In Kuwadzana there were reports of police assaulting citizens and some vendors reported they had
lost wares during the mayhem. In Mashonaland Central there were reports of some Zimbabwe African National
Union Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) supporters attempting to influence School Development Committee (SDC)
selection processes and sideline Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members from occupying positions in
the committees. There were also reports of villagers being ordered to contribute towards Independence Day
celebrations despite the commemorations having been put on hold. The politics of patronage continued during
the month with cases of Zanu PF supporters receiving preferential treatment in aid and other resources
distribution being rampant.