Extending Zimbabwe's lockdown 'seems necessary': rights watchdog

16 April 2020 - 17:41 By LENIN NDEBELE
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa says he is in consultation with experts to decide whether to extend or end the lockdown. File photo.
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa says he is in consultation with experts to decide whether to extend or end the lockdown. File photo.

Zimbabwe is yet to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) targets for lifting Covid-19 lockdowns, with the country left with just five days to end its 21-day lockdown, a human rights watch body said.

According to the WHO, Covid-19 transitions have to be at a controllable level, outbreak risks minimised in special settings and importation risks managed. Also, communities should be fully educated about the pandemic and preventive measures in place against Covid-19 infection in essential places that people go to such as workplaces and schools.

But Veritas — a human rights watchdog — noted that since Zimbabwe does not meet any of the set targets, “extending the lockdown seems necessary”.

“The spread of Covid-19 is probably just starting in Zimbabwe,” it said.

But because of the low level of freedom of expression and the rule of law in “authoritarian” regimes, and mistrust in such governments by the masses, government has to explain its decisions to the people.

“But it needs careful thought and plans put in place. It also needs government to fully explain their decisions. Authoritarian governments find it easier to impose their decisions on their people but in democracies, governments need to carry the people with them in their decisions,” Veritas said in a statement.

Early this week President Emmerson Mnangagwa told the public he was in consultation with experts on the ground. He would arrive at a decision to extend or end the lockdown after careful consideration.

Botswana has put in place a six-month lockdown, and SA extended its three-week lockdown by two weeks. Zambia has not put one in place, while Mozambique declared a state of emergency.

African countries took varied measures because of the socio-economic impact of shutting down. Zimbabwe is one of the hardest hit.

“In Zimbabwe, where most people are in the informal economy, the impact of lockdown on their livelihoods and their networks of dependants is very great. Social and economic cushioning is very limited in Zimbabwe, as in other poorer countries,” Veritas said.

This week Zimbabwe experienced a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases, particularly in the second-largest city, Bulawayo, where testing began earlier this week. The city recorded two positive Covid-19 cases in three days, bringing the national total to 23 from 716 tests. There had been one recovery and three deaths.

The latest cases noted in Bulawayo involve people with no history of travel.

One of the cases — called Case 15 — is that of a doctor who had contact with a deceased Covid-19 patient.

Lobbyists say if there is an extension, there is a need to build trust in the public for co-operation.