The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) says the Covid-19 induced lockdown measures implemented by the Government in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols limited civil and political rights in the country.
In an annual report for 2020, the Commission said whilst it was justified to implement the measures certain factors should be considered in order to protect other rights.
“The pandemic seriously affected the enjoyment of civil and political rights and economic social, cultural and environmental rights. The civil and political rights that were limited 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 diminished with by-elections being deferred indefinitely although it is worth noting that ZANU (PF) DCC elections and MDC-T elective congress were held during the period under review.
It should be noted that when limiting or restricting rights there are certain factors that are taken into account for example; whether the limitation is proportional to the intended objective, is not discriminatory, of a limited duration, respectful of human dignity and subject to review. The Commission emphasized that certain rights could not be limited at all such as freedom from torture, cruel and inhuman and degrading treatment, right to human dignity and right to a fair trial,” read the report
The Commission said despite mitigatory measures to promote access to education not everyone benefitted from the processes.
“The lockdown measures also negatively affected the enjoyment of economic social and cultural rights. These included the right to healthcare, education, labour rights, food and water. The prolonged closure of schools, tertiary and other learning institutions negatively affected enjoyment of the right to education. In response, the Government introduced mitigatory measures to promote access to education during lockdown through radio lessons and other virtual learning platforms.
“However, vulnerable segments of the population in marginalized rural, peri-urban resettlement farming and mining communities did not benefit from such initiatives because of limited access to learning aids and devices and internet facilities. The inactive role of schools as a socialization agent and safety net, left children vulnerable to child labour, child marriages, exposure to physical, sexual and other forms of abuse, alcohol and substance abuse which contributed to school drop-out. The closure of schools and industrial action by teachers disrupted the smooth running of public examinations and the preparedness of children for such examinations,” the Commission noted
Among other issues the ZHRC said the lockdown affected people’s livelihoods resulting in serious food insecurity with high pricing of goods and services being charged in foreign currency resulting in food insecurity.