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‘COVID-19 Locked Down Access to Justice’

MUTARE– The government sanctioned lockdown to manage the spread of Coronavirus had unintended consequences of stifling access to justice, an anti-corruption watchdog has said.

Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), programs director Tafadzwa Chikumbu said it was regrettable that government reneged from its core mandate at a critical time where good governance was required to protect vulnerable sections of society that rely on public funds and services.

“We need to make sure that vulnerable groups are protected and that their access to justice is not hindered by as was recovered during the lockdown period.

“Worryingly during the Covid 19 lockdown there were records of corruption in the use of the pandemic funds and all this speaks to the continuation of injustices to vulnerable groups who rely on public funds.

“We call for probity from our duty bearers to handle public funds in a transparent and accountable manner,” said Chikumbu.

Kuda Mudiwa, a client in the TIZ, Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) department said women and youth suffered without recourse during the lockdown period.

In submission made during an Online Policy Dialogue on Access to Justice under the theme “Improving and Promoting Access to Justice for Vulnerable Groups during Covid-19.”

She said the incidents of Gender Based Violence (GBV) increased sharply during this period, it only reflected those that had managed to report their issues, as a lot more cases went unreported due to barriers of access to justice.

“While government acted to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and introduced the lockdown, it had unintended consequences for women and vulnerable groups as it effectively curtailed access to justice.

“Since most women are unemployed, they were not seen as essential services and therefore some failed to go and report cases of including GBV, or personal matters,” she said.

TIZ legal officer Tracy Mutowekuziva, said it was unfortunate that the rule of law and public integrity were weakened and masked by response the COVID-19 response.

She said judicial corruption was a drawback on access to justice, specifically for vulnerable groups like women who are affected and impacted in different ways.

“Although everyone is entitled to access justice, there are certain barriers faced by many which include corruption.

“Over the past years, most vulnerable groups in Zimbabwe are faced with challenges on reporting corruption and mostly lack of knowledge on how and where to report corruption that they encounter within the whole justice system value chain,” she said.

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