Zimbabwe: Rights Groups Welcome Court Ban on Brutal COVID-19 Lockdown

Human rights groups in Zimbabwe have welcomed a court ruling ordering state security forces not to assault citizens while enforcing the country's coronavirus lockdown. One of those injured says he wants compensation from the government as his arm and leg were broken, allegedly by security forces.

The high court ruled Tuesday that security forces must respect human rights while enforcing the 21-day lockdown, which ends later this week. That followed an urgent petition from advocacy group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, which said it had recorded several rights abuse cases by the army and police.

Twenty-eight-year-old Tendai Mthombeni said security forces broke his arm and leg while forcing him to stay indoors last Friday. In a telephone interview, Mthombeni said he cannot go back to South Africa where he works because of the injuries, so now wants compensation.

He said he doesn’t believe forces will follow the court ruling. They act like they are drunk or frustrated because of poor remuneration when dealing with civilians. He added that he has dependents and he does not know how they are surviving since he is now stuck in Zimbabwe.
Kumbirai Mafunda, the spokesman for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, welcomed the high court’s ruling.

“We are glad that the court has found the police to have violated citizens’ fundamental rights. And we hope that the police and soldiers will comply with the court order and conduct themselves in a manner which respects the constitution, which respects people’s fundamental rights, rather than violating [their rights],” he said.

In a separate ruling Tuesday, the high court ordered the government to provide personal protective equipment to all medical staff to protect them from the coronavirus.

Fortune Nyamande, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights, said his association will now pressure the government to comply with the ruling.

“We think that this judgment will go a long way in compelling the government to act in the right manner. Our next step definitely will be to ensure that this judgement is enforced, and if it is not enforced, we will then seek all the necessary instruments to ensure that the decision of the court is respected,” said Nyamande.

Zimbabwe’s justice minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi, said he would only comment on the rulings after talking to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa is expected to review Zimbabwe’s lockdown at the end of this week.  The coronavirus has infected 18 people in Zimbabwe and caused three deaths.

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