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Zimbabwe Court Orders Soldiers, Police to Stop Brutalizing Locals in Coronavirus Lockdown Enforcements


FILE: Zimbabwean riot police block a road ahead of a planned protest in Harare, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019.

Zimbabwe’s High Court has ruled that soldiers, police and other state security agents should respect human rights, the dignity of people and their fundamental freedoms and rights while enforcing the country’s national coronavirus lockdown regulations.

High Court Judges Justice Owen Tagu and Justice Joseph Musakwa made the ruling after presiding over an urgent chamber application filed by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and Lucia Masvondo, a Karoi woman, who was bitten by dogs as the state security agents were enforcing the lockdown regulations.

According to the ZLHR, during the hearing, Masvondo and ZLHR asked the court to protect her against the conduct of some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) members and some members of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), who last Friday assaulted her as she was cooking food on an open fire outside her house in Karoi. Mashonaland West province.

The 26 year-old Masvondo said she was worried that as a result of the police and army officers’ conduct, who invaded her home, the security officers may have brought the deadly coronavirus to her home as she does not know where they have been to, where they were coming from or whether or not anyone of them carried the deadly virus.

Masvondo and ZLHR, who listed Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Health and Child Care Minister Obadiah Moyo, Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister July Moyo, Home Affairs Minister Kazembe, Commissioner-General of Police Godwin Matanga and Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe as respondents, argued that the army has no business patrolling the streets and purporting to enforce the lockdown regulations and that ZRP members and ZNA officers are not allowed to take the law into their hands and punish people by beating them up and asking them to lie prone on the ground.

The woman protested that the ZRP and members, who also assaulted some people residing at her residence using truncheons, were not observing or practicing social distancing guidelines as they were not sitting one-metre apart from each other in a truck in which they were moving around in,

In an affidavit accompanying the urgent chamber application, ZLHR executive director Roselyn Hanzi said enforcement officers must discharge their mandates according to the law and at all times act within the confines of the law.

Hanzi protested against the confiscation and destruction of some farmers’ produce by law enforcement officers in Mutare early this week, saying such conduct is unlawful as it is not sanctioned by any of the Statutory Instruments that have been promulgated by Moyo.

Hanzi also argued that the ZRP members were breaching the lockdown measures by arresting large numbers of people from different households and crowding them in trucks and holding centres, actions which facilitate the passing on of coronavirus by putting them in close proximity of each other without providing them with any forms of protective clothing.

“As frontline enforcement officers, ZRP members and municipal officers were putting not only their lives in danger but those of their families and the greater people that they will come into contact with,” Hanzi said.

Justice Musakwa and Tagu said on the return date, which is a future date to be determined by the High Court, lawyers for Masvondo and ZLHR and those representing Muchinguri-Kashiri, Moyo, Moyo Kazembe, Matanga and Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe, will argue on whether the regulations issued by Health and Child Care Minister are in compliance with the Constitution.

The final order being sought by ZLHR and Masvondo seeks to compel Moyo to comply with the provisions of the Constitution and to the Rule of Law.

In the application, ZLHR and Masvondo argued that Moyo can only make Statutory Instruments pursuant to powers delegated to him by the Legislature in the parent Act of Parliament and not by sub-delegating to himself the powers to make subsidiary legislation through section 8 of the Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) Regulations, 2020. (ZLHR)

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