Observers’ report on Covid-19

Zesn – IN pursuit of sustained accountability and transparency regarding responses against coronavirus (Covid-19) by both State and non-state actors, Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) presents a summary of the reports that it received this week from its Long Term Observers resident in the 210 National Assembly constituencies.

The ministry of Health and Child Care has been applauded for providing daily updates on Covid-19 via the ministry’s social media accounts and the official website.

As at May 18, 2020, Zimbabwe had 46 confirmed cases, including 18 recoveries and four (4) deaths while a cumulative total of 29 227 tests had been done.

The observer reports highlighted that a recent study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has shown that Zimbabwe has the second largest informal sector in the world. As much as 60 percent of the Zimbabwean economy is informal.

Business ventures classified as informal are still barred from re-opening. Thus the financial situation of those dependent on such businesses continues to worsen.

In an apparent act of defiance, citizens have begun to openly engage in vending and other types of informal business. It has been noted that concerted efforts by the government, non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations, and private sector to raise awareness of some of the preventative measures that should be taken to help stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus, have been insufficient.

Gaps remain in these efforts, including the unavailability of publicity materials that are accessible to persons with disabilities. The deaf community successfully sued government and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation (ZBC) for failure to provide Covid-19 information in simplified formats for persons with disabilities.

Reports from observers indicate that citizens venturing to places near urban centres and shops are the ones mostly wearing masks.

Under level 2 lockdown the number of individuals who are allowed to publicly gather for specified purposes has been increased from two individuals to 50 individuals. Nevertheless, at any gathering, every person must exercise social distancing rules. It is also mandatory that every individual wear a mask while in public.

In view of the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), observer reports indicate an appreciation by members of the public that the masks do not need to be of the standard specified in the Public Health Regulations of 20204. Thus citizens have been making home-made masks using materials at their disposal.

The reports observed that there is need for CSOs to coordinate with government in their efforts to provide PPE and basic goods to the most vulnerable citizens.

Specialised human rights training for members of the uniformed forces is required to equip them with information on how to balance discharging their duties and safeguarding basic human rights.

There is need for government to provide updates on how it has distributed the food aid mobilised using public funds or donated by well-wishers.

Any reports of unprofessionalism by the security institutions charged with the mandate to enforce the lockdown should be investigated and outcome of such investigations made public.
Members of the public are urged to fully comply with the restrictions imposed to manage the effects of Covid-19 and flatten the curve.

The impact of Covid-19 outbreak has had a significant impact on democracy, particularly elections. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) suspended by-elections for an indefinite period of time. However, Zec recently indicated its intention to hold by-elections for the four vacancies that arose in Parliament after the lockdown is lifted.

Zesn will engage the Commission to discuss the measures the Commission plans to institute in order to safeguard the health of its officials, voters and members of the general public when they conduct these by-elections.


— Zesn

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