Lockdown challenges for uniformed forces
EDITOR — ZIMBABWE Election Support Network (Zesn)’s Long Term Observers (LTOs) resident in the 210 National Assembly Constituencies have been monitoring the strict enforcement of the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown order by the army and police.
While the uniformed forces have the mandate to enforce the lockdown order; nevertheless the discharge of this mandate must always be done in a manner that upholds human rights and protects the dignity of citizens.
In Chiredzi West our LTO reports that police in riot gear was arresting persons not wearing masks, and money changers at Chiredzi’s bus terminus. Similar reports were received from Insiza North.
Running battles between police and vendors were reported in Chipinge Central, while in St Mary’s the municipal police was reported to have confiscated goods of informal traders, some of whom were trading in front of their residential properties. In Harare East there was a report that police manning the roadblock along Harare Mutare highway were taking bribes from those travelling without letters authorising them to do so.
The government needs to step up efforts to patrol the country’s boarders to stop the apparent growing number of cross-boarder traders and returning citizens who continue to use undesignated entry points from Botswana and South Africa to enter the country, thus evading the strict screening procedures set out by the government.
Such behaviour endangers the health of the public. The report from the Lupane West LTO provides an apt illustration where 22 people were put in quarantine facilities pending the outcome of their Covid-19 test after they failed to notify the health authorities of their two relatives who “jumped” the boarder back in to the country. It is reported that the two relatives tested positive for Covid-19.
The LTO from Mwenezi West expressed similar concerns as border jumpers and cross-border traders where using illegal means to move between Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s health sector continues to experience numerous challenges which include shortage of skilled professionals, poor infrastructure, and obsolete equipment and lack of essential medicines.
Across the country a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health professionals in public health institutions has been reported in previous weeks. In some instances this has prompted protests by health professionals.
This week, Mutoko Noth LTO reported that nurses at Mutoko General Hospital were on “go slow” protesting poor working conditions.
While in Mutasa South nurses at Mutare General Hospital engaged in strike citing poor remuneration.
Reports of violation of this and other health guidelines continue to be received from LTOs resident in the country’s 10 provinces especially in instances where people are gathered at funeral wakes, queues at retail outlets selling basic commodities that may be scarce, boreholes in places where potable water is not readily available and at church gatherings.
There was a report that in Chitungwiza North there was a large number of people in queues to get water from boreholes across the Constituency, which is experiencing severe shortages of potable water.
Most of the people in such queues were neither observing the required physical distances nor were they wearing masks.
However, an encouraging report was received from LTO in Tsholotsho North who observed a funeral wake where the stipulated health protocols were observed.