ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (ZHRC) STATEMENT ON THE ANTICIPATED IMPACT OF THE LEVEL IV LOCKDOWN ON ENJOYMENT OF SOCIO ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL RIGHTS BY THE POPULACE: JANUARY 2021

ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (ZHRC) STATEMENT ON THE ANTICIPATED IMPACT OF THE LEVEL IV LOCKDOWN ON ENJOYMENT OF SOCIO ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL RIGHTS BY THE POPULACE: JANUARY 2021


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ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (ZHRC) STATEMENT ON THE ANTICIPATED IMPACT OF THE LEVEL IV LOCKDOWN ON ENJOYMENT OF SOCIO ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL RIGHTS BY THE POPULACE: JANUARY 2021
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) is deeply concerned with the impact of the COVID 19 preventative, containment and treatment measures on the ability of people living in Zimbabwe to enjoy their socio economic and cultural rights. It calls upon the Government to take all appropriate measures to mitigate the effect of the impact on the population. This is the essence of this statement.
The ZHRC welcomes the promulgation of Statutory Instrument 10/2021 on Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (No. 2) (Amendment) Order, 2021 (No. 9), which was announced by the Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Honourable Constantino Chiwenga, on the 2nd of January 2021. The Statutory Instrument reintroduces stricter lockdown measures for a period of thirty days with effect from the 3rd of January 2021. These measures were put in place as a way of combating the spread of COVID 19. This follows the spike in recorded COVID-19 positive cases, especially during the festive season.
From the past lockdown experiences in Zimbabwe, the Commission has observed that such measures had a positive effect in the containment and the prevention of the virus. However, the Commission is concerned by the absence in the Regulations of any measures to mitigate the effect of the restrictions on the population and ensure the satisfaction of, at the very least, minimum essential levels of each of the economic social and cultural rights protected in the Constitution. ZHRC notes that the majority of the population (at least 60%) is in the informal sector, which is amongst those required to shut down operations. ZHRC has observed, from its previous monitoring work (that is between the period March to December 2020), that the strict lockdown measures negatively affected the standards of living of the majority of the populace in both urban and rural communities. The Government in the past had undertaken to provide some cushioning allowances for informal traders and other vulnerable groups. However as of December 2020, ZHRC noted with concern that these pledges were yet to be fulfilled resulting in some people struggling to access food, among other basic necessities.
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The effective containment and prevention of COVID-19 requires good hygiene practices, availability of reliable clean and potable water. In its monitoring findings since March 2020, ZHRC reported that despite efforts mainly by Government, humanitarian aid actors and some local authorities, communities were struggling to access clean and potable water. There is nothing in the current prevention, containment and treatment measures taken by the government that is meant to address this challenge. Furthermore ZHRC continues to observe reports of the health sector failing to effectively handle positive COVID-19 cases, with some people dying whilst seeking health care and admission facilities. The health sector raised concerns over limited resources and equipment including the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). The costs of COVID-19 screening remains beyond the reach of the majority, and again no clear measures have been taken regarding easy access to screening facilities by the general populace. The Government of Zimbabwe statement did not address what would be done to improve the capacity of the sector as the fight against COVID-19 continues. ZHRC further noted the directive by the Government of Zimbabwe to keep schools closed except for the public examinations’ candidates. ZHRC is nevertheless concerned with the continued compromise of the right to education due to the lockdown measures. From its previous monitoring of radio and online lessons in 2020, ZHRC noted that few pupils were able to access education through these platforms. Lack of access to education disproportionately affected children from low income families as well as those living in difficult circumstances. The measures announced by the Government of Zimbabwe did not give clear guidelines on how the right to education would continue to be realized even during public health restrictions. The Commission is of the considered view that the lockdown measures alone, without the attendant provision of basic economic social and cultural amenities fall short of the standard anticipated by the Constitution. ZHRC urges the public to take heed of and observe the call by Government to act responsibly, being guided by the health experts and existing protocols. In view of the aforesaid observation, ZHRC makes the following recommendations to citizens and the Government of Zimbabwe;

  1. Citizens and all stakeholders should take heed of the precautionary and preventative measures stipulated by the Ministry of Health and Child Care as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO).
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  2. The Government should honour its pledges and commitments to put in place measures that cushion the informal sector and the public at large, especially regarding access to a decent standard of living and food security.
  3. The Government should scale up the provision of adequate resources and equipment in the health sector, to enable health practitioners to fully attend to COVID-19 cases and avoid stay aways. In the same vein, Government should ensure affordability of COVID-19 testing.
  4. The Government should come up with measures that enable the right to education to be enjoyed by all children, as it is evident that the pandemic will remain with us for a while.
  5. The Government should put in place measures that ensure access to adequate clean and potable water across the country. This could be done through drilling and /or resuscitation of existing boreholes.
  6. The Government should also continue to partner with different stakeholders in disseminating information on COVID-19 to communities across the country.
    ZHRC CONTACT DETAILS
    Harare Office
    144 Samora Machel Avenue, Harare
    P. Bag. 7759 Causeway, Harare
    Telephone: +263 242 703596/ 703616/701811
    Bulawayo Office
    49 J.M. Nkomo Street (Between 3rd and 4th Avenue), Bulawayo
    Telephone: 292 64170-73
    Hotline: 0771 838 656, 0786 602 035
    Email: info@zhrc.org.zw
    Website: www.zhrc.org.zw
    Facebook Page: @zhrc.zw
    Twitter: @zhrc365

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