The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) says the Covid-19 induced lockdown measures implemented by the government in line with World Health Organization (WHO) protocols have limited civil rights and politics in the country.
In an annual report for 2020, the Commission said that while it was justified to implement the measures, certain factors had to be taken into account in order to protect other rights.
“The pandemic has seriously affected the enjoyment of civil and political rights and economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. Civil and political rights that were restricted included freedom of movement and residence, freedom of assembly and association, the right to demonstrate and petition, and various political rights.
“As a result, the operating environment for political parties has deteriorated, with by-elections postponed indefinitely, although it should be noted that the ZANU (PF) DCC elections and the MDC-T elective congress took place during the period considered.
It should be noted that when limiting or restricting rights, certain factors are taken into account, for example; whether the limitation is proportionate to the objective pursued, non-discriminatory, of limited duration, respectful of human dignity and subject to review. The Commission stressed that certain rights could not be limited at all, such as protection against torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to human dignity and the right to a fair trial,” reads the report.
The Commission said that despite mitigation measures to promote access to education, not everyone has benefited from the processes.
“Containment measures have also had a negative impact on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. These included the right to health care, education, labor rights, food and water. The prolonged closure of schools, colleges and other educational institutions has undermined the enjoyment of the right to education. In response, the government has introduced mitigation measures to promote access to education during the lockdown through radio lessons and other virtual learning platforms.
“However, vulnerable segments of the population in marginalized rural and peri-urban farming and mining communities have not benefited from these initiatives due to limited access to learning aids and devices and internet facilities. The inactive role of schools as an agent of socialization and a safety net has left children vulnerable to child labour, child marriage, exposure to physical, sexual and other forms of abuse, alcohol and drug abuse that contributed to school dropout. School closures and teacher strikes have disrupted the smooth running of public exams and the preparation of children for those exams,” the Commission noted.
Among other issues, the ZHRC said the lockdown was affecting people’s livelihoods, leading to severe food insecurity, with high prices for goods and services being charged in foreign currency, leading to food insecurity.