Harassment, food aid politicisation top human rights violations: ZPP

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Sindiso Mhlophe

HUMAN rights watchdog, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), has raised concern over increasing human rights violations, indicating that harassment and partisan food aid distribution are at the top of the list at a time when the country is reeling from the socio-economic effects of the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

This comes as the UNDP warned that the country’s human rights violations and economic woes are set to worsen due to the effects of the deadly global pandemic, which has resulted in the death of over 436 000 people across the globe.

In its monthly report, the ZPP expressed concern over the increase in human rights violations during the national lockdown, describing this as tyranny masked as Covid-19 enforcement.

“It has become apparent that Covid-19 is not just a health matter, but touches on economic, political, social and human rights aspects of people. This explains why by the end of May, police had arrested over 40 000 people for defying lockdown regulations; mostly in an effort to conduct economic activities to earn an income.

“ZPP recorded cases of arrested citizens not being taken through the formal arrest procedure, but enduring harassment, intimidation and assault at the hands of law enforcement. Victims told horror stories of their experiences at the hands of law enforcement agents. This makes arrests in Zimbabwe a human rights issue,” ZPP said.

ZPP recorded 110 cases of harassment and intimidation, the majority of which are attributed to the State security agents, 13 cases of unlawful detention, 40 cases of assault and sadly, two extra judicial killings.

“Of concern is that the distribution of aid continued to be largely partisan and discriminatory, with Mashonaland East recording the highest food and other aid violations at 42,57 percent followed by Manicaland at 28,86 percent,” ZPP added.

ZPP further said that despite calls to end partisan food distribution, some key political and traditional leaders were still engaging in it at the expense of vulnerable members of various communities across the country.

“The Covid-19 induced national lockdown has exacerbated the preexisting food insecurity. Although the Zimbabwean economy is highly informal, the sector has for a long time been excluded from essential services thereby increasing the vulnerability of citizens.”

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