TWO Chinhoyi residents have petitioned the High Court seeking an order
to compel police officers and soldiers, who are currently enforcing
the national lockdown to wear protective clothing in the course of
discharging their duties and to stop the arbitrary arrest and assault
of members of the public.
The Chinhoyi residents John Basopo and Grace Yona made the request in
an urgent chamber application filed on Friday 10 April 2020 at the
High Court and supported by Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights in which
they asked the court to prohibit Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)
members and Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) officers from rounding up and
assaulting members of the public during the lockdown period.
Basopo and Yona told the court that some ZRP members and ZNA officers
assaulted them and other members of the public on 7 April 2020 on
allegations of violating laws relating to the national lockdown after
they were allegedly found preparing food on an open fire as there was
no electricity in their suburb and while parking a vehicle outside
their respective homes.
Basopo and Yona stated that they are worried that the army officers
who assaulted and tortured them could have infected them with the
deadly coronavirus as they were just assaulting them while their nose
and mouths were not covered.
The conduct of ZRP members and ZNA officers, Basopo and Yona said,
while manifestly unlawful, also violated provisions of the law
mandating the maintenance of social distancing to curb the
transmission of the virus and placed them at great risk of contracting
Basopo, Yona and ZLHR, who are represented by Rudo Magundani and
Paidamoyo Saurombe of ZLHR, cited Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage
Minister Kazembe, Commissioner-General of Police Godwin Matanga and
Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and
Phillip Sibanda, the ZNA Commander as respondents.
The respondents namely Kazembe, Matanga, Muchinguri-Kashiri and
Sibanda, Basopo, Yona and ZLHR charged, failed to protect the public
by failing to enforce the lockdown regulations at open markets such as
Mbare Musika in Harare and Sakubva in Mutare, where gatherings
continue to grow unabated, a situation which promotes the spread of
coronavirus and threatens the health and life of Zimbabweans.
Basopo, Yona and ZLHR want the High Court to issue an interdict to
prevent police and army officers from assaulting and rounding up
residents in crammed vehicles during the national lockdown to prevent
the spread and transmission of coronavirus and for the law enforcement
agents to be compelled to lawfully enforce the lockdown order in
crowded areas which have been classified under essential services.
Basopo, Yona and ZLHR argued that the coronavirus pandemic poses a
real and current threat to their right to health and right to life and
are entitled to protection of those rights.
ZLHR, represented by Roselyn Hanzi, the organisation’s Executive
Director said the country’s leading legal defence group, had monitored
and observed the rounding up of citizens by the police, acting in
common purpose and consent with some army officers and being placed in
Hanzi said while Zimbabwe is in a state of national disaster as
declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, certain fundaments rights as
enshrined in section 86(3) of the Constitution remain sacrosanct and
inviolable and that the police and army must continue to observe and
uphold the right to life and the right to human dignity in the course
of their duties during the national lockdown.
Hanzi said she had observed that police officers have not been wearing
protective clothing such as masks while discharging their duties which
means that if they are infected with the virus, they will easily
spread same to each other and to the public which presents a threat
not only to themselves but to the public at large.
The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.