Despite repeated denials by government officials, there is overwhelming evidence that indeed President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government have used Covid-19 restrictions to supress human rights in Zimbabwe.
The country’s constitutional human rights body, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) in August warned the government against human rights violations during the Covid-19 era.
In the same month, in a joint statement Western diplomats accredited to Harare also criticised the Mnangagwa administration for using the pandemic restrictions to suppress citizens’ rights.
The Voice of America also quoting the same statement by the Western ambassadors highlights human rights abuses during Covid-19 lockdown.
The latest move that laid it bare that indeed Covid-19 regulations were being used by the government to suppress human rights has been the recent indefinite ban on the pending by-elections to replace recalled MDC-T legislators and councillors.
This a clear demonstration of the violation of the right to vote as well representation.
The country’s Vice President, also doubling as the Health and Child Care Minister, Constantino Chiwenga, through a government gazette suspended the by-elections indefinitely citing Covid-19 protocols.
Ironically the ban which came at time when the curve of Covid-19 cases had flattened and when a number of lockdown measures had since been relaxed and has been condemned by the ZHRC.
The move which has attracted criticisms is being challenged in court.
In the final analysis, it has to be emphasized that human rights have indeed been violated by President Mnangagwa under the guise of implementing Covid-19 prevention measures.
Background: An online publication, apnews.com, on 15 September 2020, carried a story running under the headline: “Zimbabwe government abuses critics, allege rights groups” in which it says it appeared the government was using restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus to suppress political criticism.The publication which quoted a number of rights groups cited the jailing of a Zimbabwean opposition official who sang a protest song at the funeral of a party member in July, the arrest of freelance journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, for exposing corruption in government and the story of author and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga who spent a night in detention for standing by a Harare road and holding up a placard that said “We Want Better. Reform Our Institutions,” as evidence of rights violations during the Covid-19 lockdown in the country.
The online publication quoted ZimRights as follows: “While the government lockdown has been extended indefinitely, human rights violations have steadily increased, suggesting that the government is using COVID-19 as a cover for violating fundamental freedoms and attacking perceived opponents,” said the local human rights group ZimRights in a joint statement with the International Federation for Human Rights.
However, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu-PF government have repeated rejected the claim as baseless and unfounded.