Lockdown Induced Diminished Remittances Worsens Older People’s Poverty

Elderly people from various parts of Bulawayo are reeling in extreme hardships and poverty due to diminished remittances caused by the Covid19 Lockdowns in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa among other countries.

A Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights snap survey shows that among other issues, diminished returns is worsening food insecurity amongst the elderly and also affecting their ability to buy medication, pay bills and provide sanitary wear for their grandchildren which are under their care.

“It has become very difficult as I am stuck here with these 8 grandchildren and I don’t know what to feed them as their parents in South `Africa are not able to send anything since they are also not going to work due to this corona virus” lamented Gogo MaMoyo from Hyde Park in Bulawayo. Some of Gogo MaMoyo’s grandchildren are teenagers who are in need of sanitary wear.

Another elderly lady in Cowdray Park explained to MIHR that she has a chronic disease and she is no longer able to buy her regular supply of medication pharmacies as her only child in Bulawayo who survives on vending has not been making money for more than a month now due to the lockdown period.

Khulu Nyathi from Mpopoma suburb bemoaned his failure to pay electricity and burial society fees due to failure by his grandchildren to support him. “Abazukulu bayakhala bathi labo lapho abakhona kule lockdown so ngizihlalele nje, amagetsi secitshile le burial lokhe ngixolisa” (my grandchildren are failing to send any money as where they are – in south Africa – there is lockdown also and as you can see electricity has run out and I have been giving excuses at the burial society).

Globally, elderly persons have been the worst affected by the Covid19 pandemic as they are vulnerable both to the corona virus infection and to the lockdown effects. Recently the United Nations released a policy brief on older persons and Covid19. The policy brief indicates that older persons are the more visible victims of the Corona virus epidemic due to pre-existing conditions such as chronic illnesses. It further notes that in China approximately 80 percent of Covid19 deaths were among adults aged 60 years and over. Similarly, “as of 16 March, 80 percent of deaths associated with Covid-19 in the United States were among adults aged 65 and over”. The World Health Organization has reported that over 95 percent of fatalities due to Covid19 in Europe have been 60 years or older.  The UN policy brief further notes disturbing cases of discriminations, social stigma and stereotypes being perpetuated to older persons due to the Covid19 pandemic.

In launching the UN policy Brief on Older Persons and Covid19, the UN Secretary General Mr António Guterres reiterated the need for “all social, economic and humanitarian responses must take the needs of older people fully into account, from universal health coverage to social protection, decent work and pensions”.

Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights is running the Covid19 Monitoring and Engagement (COME) Project that monitors Covid19 and the project has specific focus on monitoring the impact of Covid19 on older persons in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe.

COVID-19 Response Must Respect Their Rights, Dignity: UN Secretary General

General Assembly Seventy-third session Informal Briefing by the Secretary-General on his Priorities for 2019

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to launch a policy brief on older persons, in New York today:

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold fear and suffering for older people across the world.  The fatality rate for older people is higher overall, and for those over 80, it is five times the global average.

Beyond its immediate health impact, the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation.  It is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on older people in developing countries.

As an older person myself, with responsibility for an even older mother, I am deeply concerned about the pandemic on a personal level, and about its effects on our communities and societies.

Today we are launching a policy brief that provides analysis and recommendations to address these challenges.  Our response to COVID-19 must respect the rights and dignity of older people.

There are four main messages.  First, no person, young or old, is expendable.  Older people have the same rights to life and health as everyone else.  Difficult decisions around life-saving medical care must respect the human rights and dignity of all.

Second, while physical distancing is crucial, let’s not forget we are one community and we all belong to each other.  We need improved social support and smarter efforts to reach older people through digital technology.  That is vital to older people who may face great suffering and isolation under lockdowns and other restrictions.

Third, all social, economic and humanitarian responses must take the needs of older people fully into account, from universal health coverage to social protection, decent work and pensions.  The majority of older people are women, who are more likely to enter this period of their lives in poverty and without access to health care.  Policies must be targeted at meeting their needs.

And fourth, let’s not treat older people as invisible or powerless.  Many older people depend on an income and are fully engaged in work, in family life, in teaching and learning, and in looking after others.  Their voices and leadership count.

To get through this pandemic together, we need a surge in global and national solidarity and the contributions of all members of society, including older people.  As we look to recover better, we will need ambition and vision to build more inclusive, sustainable and age-friendly societies that are fit for the future.

NPRC Acts on Video of CowdrayPark Women Abused by ZRP Members

NPRC Commissioner Ncube and Complaints handling staff visit the affected women

After seeing the CITE produced video of Bulawayo’s Cowdray Park women who narrate how they were brutalized by the police during the Covid19 lockdown period, MIHR posted the video on its Facebook page and appealed to National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to act in ensuring justice is served.

The NPRC Commissioner Charles Masunungure then responded by saying “As NPRC Commissioner responsible for Complaints Handling and Investigations I have taken note of the video footage and tomorrow we are instituting our investigations into the matter. Citizens are urged to make use of our WhatsApp platform +263714035328”

True to the Commissioner’s statement, today the NPRC posted a picture (posted here above) and a message “NPRC Commissioner Ncube this morning led a team of our investigations officers to visit the two complainants and record their statements.”

As Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights we wish to express our gratitutde to the NPRC for being proactive and giving this issue the urgny it deserves. WMost of our people have lost hope and confidence in the pursuit for justice, but it is when we have active independent institutions like Commissions that the hope of the citizes for justice can be revived and rekindlded. We also ask the NPRC, ZHRC and ZGC to consider the contents o the appeal letter we sent them today.

MIHR also encourages citizens not to habour human rights violations dne to them but to utilie the indepedent commissios.

Last but not least we appreciate and thank CITE for a sterling work of exposing injustices in our communities. Had CITE not done its tremendous work, this issue would have gone unreported and unknown.

OPEN APPEAL: ENACT SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND ABUSE PROTECTION MEASURES IN QUARANTINE CENTERS

To: The Minister of Health and Child Care
Cc: Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare
Cc: Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises
Cc: Minister of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation
Cc: Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing
Bcc: National Covid19 Taskforce
Bcc: Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission

04 May 2020

  1. Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) recognizes the various efforts made by the Government of Zimbabwe in responding to the Covid19 threat in the country and especially designating special places as quarantine centers.
  2. As an organization which exists to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights for vulnerable people and communities, MIHR writes this open appeal calling for the immediate enactment of strict sexual exploitation and abuse protection mechanisms and reporting protocols in all the quarantine centers nationwide. Our concerns which leads to us making this passionate please are the increasing number of diaspora returnees set to arrive in the country from various countries (including the nearly 3000 from South Africa, among others) and that:
    a) These returnees will include women, children and youths and will be in quarantine centers for 14 days and therefore it is incumbent for the state to protect them from sexual exploitation and abuse. Critically for children, the state is mandated by Section 19 and 81 of the Constitution to ensure that ‘when removed from their family environment, they are protected from maltreatment, neglect or any form of abuse’;
    b) These returnees some of them have been out of employment and income for the past 6-8 weeks and they will be coming back without all their belongings and thus they may find themselves desperate for a plethora of human needs and this exposes them to sexual exploitation and abuse;
    c) Due to the harsh economic environment facing the country and the inadequate services and commodities, the returnees find themselves exposed to sexual exploitation and abuse in order to receive better services and supplies from aid workers;
  3. Our plea to the government therefore, is that in line with human rights principles and international humanitarian standards as espoused by World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations (UN):
    I. The government set up sexual exploitation and abuse measures and reporting protocols in all Covid19 quarantine centers, and these be handed as written text to every person admitted in the quarantine center and also be posted in the rooms in the center.
    II. These measures and protocols should not only cover the citizens admitted at quarantine centers but also be there to protect volunteers and aid workers working as frontline workers in the centers as they also find themselves open to sexual exploitation and abuse from their senior supervisors.
    III. The Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Protection mechanisms and protocols adopted be issued publicly as a Statutory Instrument for everyone to know of them.
    IV. The government forge partnerships with counselling nongovernmental organizations who will enable the enforcement and monitoring of these measures and protocols.
  4. Our plea is not motivated by any specific case of sexual exploitation and abuse noted or reported in any quarantine center but:
    i. Is guided by the need to protect rights violations from happening because we note that where human beings are and where power relations and resources sharing is involved, human rights violations (especially of sexual abuse and exploitation nature) are always rampant;
    ii. Is motivated by the international best practices and standards regarding humanitarian aid and specifically the “Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse During Covid19 Response” Interim Technical Note released by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee endorsed by international organizations such as WHO, UNPFA, UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, IOM, OCHA, among others.
    iii. Is inspired by the words of President Emmerson Mnangagwa while addressing the Nation on 01 May 2020 and spelling out Covid19 management measures and specifically reiterating that “we better err on the side of caution than recklessness” and we thus plead that let’s err on the side of caution by enacting these measures and protocols that protect sexual exploitation and abuse in quarantine centers.

Looking forward to your favorable response as we seek to contain the Covid19 pandemic in Zimbabwe.

Yours Sincerely

Benedict Sibasa
MIHR General Secretary
Email: mihroffice@gmail.com

MIHR COMMENDS 14 DAYS COVID19 LOCKDOWN EXTENSION AND MEASURES INSTITUTED

  1. Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) commends the Government of Zimbabwe and the President for extending the Covid19 Lockdown by a further 14 days and for instituting measures of Level 2 lockdown. Specifically, MIHR commends the following measures:
    a) Lockdown extension: because the latest MoHCC Covid19 testing updates have been showing new cases and also cases of communal infections. This lockdown extension will be important to avert reckless communal infection.
    b) Mandatory wearing of masks: this is an important decision made by government as it will assist the citizens in reducing communal infections cases and also its important in the face of continued congestionin mealie-meal queues;
    c) Workplace protection measures: such as mandatory testing and wearing of masks at workplace will protect the frontline workers and all essential services workers.
    d) Continued closure of schools, colleges and universities: as this is I the principle of best interest of the child and will protect students from communal infections.
    e) The continued ban of informal sector and commuter omnibus operations: as this will ensure people stay at home and do not unnecessarily travel outside their communities.
  2. MIHR therefore calls on:
    i. the citizens of Zimbabwe to adhere to the new lockdown extension regulations;
    ii. the security services to enforce these measures in a human rights friendly manner.
    iii. Employers to ensure that they adhere to the stipulated guidelines in order to protect workers’ rights,
    iv. Line Ministries of government to speedily communicate in detail simplified lockdown modalities,
    v. The government to increase testing even in rural communities.

Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) is an independent human rights watchdog that exists to enhance the protection, promotion and fulfilment of the rights and freedoms of marginalized communities and vulnerable social groups.

Sincerely
MIHR General Secretary
Mr Benedict Sibasa
Email: mihroffice@gmail.com

MIHR Submission on the 2nd Term opening of Schools in Zimbabwe

  1. Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) recognizes and appreciates the various efforts being made by the government of Zimbabwe in curbing the rampant spread of Corona virus outbreak in Zimbabwe. Measures that included the abrupt closure of schools before the end of 1st term were very commendable and appreciated and show the government and the Ministry’s commitment to protecting, promoting and fulfilling the rights of children in the country.
  2. As the Lockdown is nearing its end, we are aware of public discourse and debates around the opening of schools for 2nd term, and as an organization that believes in engagement and dialogue towards human rights fulfilment we felt it necessary to share with you our views, opinions and ideas on the subject:
    • As MIHR we believe the decision to open for 2nd term should be guided by the need to protect, promote and fulfil human rights and as Sections 19(1) and 81(2) of the Constitution detects, it should be at the best interest of the children;
    • We believe that opening schools for 2nd term 2020 is an urgent need considering the lost time in 1st term, the packed curriculum, the continued assessment model being used currently in the country and the examinations that are pending;
    • The second term of schooling is during the cold winter season which is characterized by high cases of common cold (flu) – and flu like symptoms are also a characteristic of Covid19;
    • Majority of our primary and secondary schools do not have dispensaries and dedicated primary health care facilities to manage even the outbreak of a simple common cold or diarrhea;
    • The bulk of the Zimbabwean population is in rural areas where students are travelling upto 5km to the nearest school (and in some communities even upto 10km) and this means that hygienic practices may be difficult to monitor and enforce amongst the children;
    • Most of our schools (both in urban and rural areas) have overcrowded classrooms with upto 50 or 60 students. Social distancing and not touching common public places is difficult in such a scenario;
    • Our teachers are demotivated by the prevailing harsh economic situation and poor remuneration and thus they may not feel compelled or motivated to take the extra role of enforcing the wearing of masks, washing of hands and general hygienic practices amongst children.
  3. In view of the above mentioned issues we therefore recommend the following regarding the opening of schools:
  4. Any attempt to reopen schools be delayed atleast upto 18 May 2020 but the reopening be on staggered phase out system starting with the exams classes first (grade 7, form 4s and 6); then after two weeks extend to Form 5, Form 3 and Grade 6; then after two weeks other classes with the lower classes and forms opening in July. This will allow for time to monitor infections in schools vis-à-vis community infections, manage congestion at school during risky times, continuous disinfections and avoid the risk of the summer common cold;
  5. Before the opening of schools, all schools be disinfected and there be a commitment and programme of disinfecting schools every two weeks;
  6. The Ministry affords all schools multiple Infrared Thermometers for checking student temperatures at the gate, facemasks for all teachers, hand sanitizers for all teachers, and liquid soap for handwashing for all students;
  7. Before opening of schools, the government pass a Statutory Instrument compelling all parents to make sure that children wear face masks before coming to school;
  8. All second term sporting activities be suspended indefinitely;
  9. The Ministry should open but with a contingency plan for speedy and abrupt closure of schools should there be cases of covid19 outbreak in schools.
  10. Our humble submission is that if the aforementioned may not be met or are too hard to meet, the Ministry and the government may best consider; in the best interests of the children; to suspend the opening of schools wholesomely until maybe Mid June 2020 where proper and more indepth assessments of the national outbreak situation has been made and the Covid19 curve is managed and flattened.

Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) is an independent human rights watchdog that exists to enhance the protection, promotion and fulfilment of the rights and freedoms of marginalized communities and vulnerable social groups.

Bulawayo Residents Suggest Water Crisis Solution Ideas to Council

Bulawayo Water Crisis (picture by Sunday News)

On Tuesday 28 April 2020, social movement Better Bulawayo Initiative partnered with Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights to conduct an online citizens’ Ideas Café to gather residents’ views and ideas on alleviating the water crisis situation in Bulawayo. The Café was attended by the Bulawayo City Council Future Water Supplies Committee Chair Councilor Sikhululekile Moyo.

The issues that were suggested by the residents included:

  1. Lobbying the government of Zimbabwe to devolve bulk water rights to Bulawayo City Council so that the council can have the power to construct its own dams without seeking approval from government or ZINWA.
  2. Attending to water leakages as some of them have been there for a long time and are now a perennial feature. The Council may consider partnering with NUST to develop an application that will be used for identifying, locating and tracking water leakages.
  3. Expansion of water extraction at Nyamandlovu Aquifer.
  4. Council to consider water harvesting technics that are aimed at harnessing runoff water which is lost during the rainy season mainly due to tarmac surfaces. This may also entail having bulk reservoirs or storage dams at the edge of the City where runoff water will be diverted into.
  5. There is need for a joint campaign effort (between BCC and residents) and this campaign effort should consider lessons from other arid areas that have managed to solve their water crisis like Egypt, Botswana and Cape Town.
  6. Resuscitation, deepening and drilling of more boreholes in the communities of Bulawayo. These boreholes can be solar powered.
  7. Promoting reusing water.
  8. Utilizing underground water that flows under the City’s CBD such as at NSSA building and main Edgars building – explore maybe there is an underground river.
  9. Campaign and lobby for the revival of the Matabeleland – Zambezi Water Project.
  10. Scooping of current supply dams during the dry season and ensuring that siltation in the catchment areas is managed.
  11. Council should consider banning the 10 litres toilet cisterns and promote the use of the 4litre or 5 litres high pressure ones which are already being used in hotels.
  12. Council need to also ban the large water taps and propose smaller water taps that don’t discharge large sums of water at a given time.
  13. Consider construction of supply dams in Gwayi and Shangani Rivers.
  14. Consider exploring for more aquifers around the City of Bulawayo including in Matobo District.
  15. Council should consider legal and human rights ways of compelling people to pay for their water bills.
  16. Enkwalini water needs to be harvesting and sold for commercial purposes.
  17. Khami Dam water should NOT BE RECYCLED FOR DOMESTIC USE but can be used for commercial, industrial and agricultural purposes. The money being proposed to be used to recycle Khami dam for domestic use can be used to construct new dams. Moreover, if Khami water is sold for industrial, commercial and agricultural use, it can generate money that will help towards the construction of a new dam.

Better Bulawayo is social movement that campaigns for better service delivery and better citizen participation in Bulawayo. Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights is an independent human rights watchdog that exists to enhance the protection and enjoyment of human rights by vulnerable groups and communities.

COVID19: the anguish and agony of the urban elderly poor in Zimbabwe

Elderly people sit and sleep on the pavement outside a local bank in Bulawayo as they wait in line to withdraw their monthly pensions. Most of these people travel long distances from their rural homes to access their monthly pensions in cities and towns, and sometimes must wait days because of daily withdraw limits. (Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe)

Evidence from COVID19 ravaged countries and health experts have shown that elderly people are the worst affected and the most at high risk of contracting the virus and also to experience critical symptoms.

As Corona virus pandemic percolates Africa, we ponder on the anguish and agony of Zimbabwean elderly people in dealing with the virus through the postulated preventive measures of good hygiene, physical distancing, and self-isolation for mild cases.

Firstly, most elderly people in urban areas of Zimbabwe are poor and survive on meagre retirement gratuities and paltry social grants. Most of these elderly poor are congested in old pre-independence, communal facility using and poorly ventilated single quarters like Minyela, Mabuthweni, Makokoba, parts of Mzilikazi, and Matshobana suburbs in Bulawayo. Most of these habitations are former mining or industrial servants’ quarters which were never meant to promote human dignity and are not even fit for poultry rearing. The housing conditions for poor elderly people in most of Africa’s cities is in itself a pre-condition that is dangerous for corona infections.

Secondly, to adapt and cope with physical distancing will be a desperate and painful quandary for most urban poor elderly people in Zimbabwe who frequent beerhalls to play darts, igwini (tsoro) and socialize in a bid to while time, distress and offer each other social safety and security. It is in these social circles that the elderly share information on pension issues, share support and advise on securing their wealth from corrupt officials conniving with housing estate agents. They also use these circles to organize and plan their sustainable burial societies. Physical distancing may work for the middle class and the youths who are active and socially connected on social media, but to older people who only know physical connection and who have grown up and lived a life of meeting person to person – it will be a mammoth task.

Thirdly, there is the concept of self isolation for those mild COVID cases. The urban elderly poor in Zimbabwe will not self isolate because their spaces of habitation as already described do not have the luxury of self space. How do you self isolate living as a family of 7 in a 3 roomed house. Secondly, our elderly people are accustomed to taking care of a sick relative, nursing them, checking their temperature with the back of your hand and attending to their daily needs. Now with corona virus, our elderly people have to content with having a child or grandchild who is sick but confined to their own space and taking care of themselves. This to many elderly will be tantamount to neglect and abandonment.

What then needs to be done to protect the urban elderly poor in Zimbabwe from corona virus, to ensure they understand physical distancing, self isolation, and other covid19 prevention measures?

  1. There is need for information dissemination by the state and civic society that specifically targets the urban elderly poor and use mediums that they listen and are loyal to. Social media communication may actually be exclusive to most urban elderly poor. Radio programmes could also include counselling and psychological support services.
  2. There is need for increased social safety programmes targeting the urban elderly.
  3. Arrangements need to be made with burial societies, funeral insurance and funeral service companies to create new arrangements that target the urban elderly poor as most of them will default their payments for the months during lockdown. Most elderly people do not know or believe in receipt less or cashless transactions such as mobile banking and mobile money transfer systems.
  4. Local authorities need to move in and use the COVID period to speed up the individualization of water and ablution in neighborhoods with communal sanitary facilities. In an area like Emabuthweni or Iminyela (Bulawayo ward 13) the local authority may use this time as opportune time to complete the underway sanitation facilities individualization process.
  5. Families and civic society need to consider strategies of integrating the elderly into the social media and new technologies world where they are also found on social media and also where they can be encouraged to register for smart tech services.
  6. Government may also consider setting up institutionalized mild cases isolation centres where the elderly poor will be housed during their recovery period.
  7. Finally, the government of Zimbabwe needs to take serious the threats and challenges of the elderly people in these changing times and sign and ratify the Protocol on the Rights of Elderly Persons in Africa.

(Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights is a nonprofit human rights think tank that exists in Zimbabwe to enhance the protection, promotion and fulfilment of human rights for vulnerable people and communities)

Public Statement: INCENTIVIZE ESSENTIAL SERVICES WORKERS DURING COVID19 LOCKDOWN PERIOD

Noting that essential services workers are risking their right to life and the safety, security and life of their family members by continuously working during the risky COVID19 lockdown period, as Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) we wish to implore the Government of Zimbabwe to put in place special measures to incentives these human rights defenders (essential services workers) and appreciate their efforts.

Realizing that their continued service is a national duty that cannot be monetized enough, our call is to simple appreciate their services, show them gratitude and motivate them even further.

Our suggested measures to government therefore include:

  1. Tax free salaries for 3 months for all government, local authority and private sector essential services workers who continued working during the 21 days lockdown period;
  2. Free transport to and from work for all essential services workers during the lockdown period;
  3. Tax exemption for 3 months for all private sector companies who continued offering essential services during the lockdown period;
  4. Presidential medals of recognition to all health sector workers who were deployed in the COVID19 quarantine and referral centres;
  5. A presidential education and welfare support scheme for all the children and spouses of the nurses and doctors who are in COVID19 health centres who might lose their lives in the process of offering essential services in those areas.

We recognize that our fellow citizens in the essential services have volunteered to render essential services to the nation during this critical period without expecting any incentive in return. We further appreciate that their service is out of passion and dedication to serving human life and fulfilling human rights and freedoms.

The above recommendations are a realization that whilst we have rights (even during such emergencies) we also as a national have a responsibility to appreciate those sacrificing to enhance our rights.

We appreciate that the State has limited resources currently, but it is our genuine feeling that these suggested measures will go a long in encouraging and appreciating our essential services workers and some of the measures proposed do no need any resources to be implemented, they can be implemented within the spectrum of available resources.

Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights is a non-profit human rights watchdog that exists to enhance the protection, promotion and fulfilment of the rights of vulnerable individuals, communities and societies within Zimbabwe.

MIHR CONTACT DETAILS

The General Secretary

Email: mihroffice@gmail.com

Blog: https://matabelelandinstituteforhumanrights.org

Corona Watch: Government should Decongest ZUPCO Buses to half their capacity

In view of the recent pronouncements by the President of Zimbabwe to mitigate risks of Corona Virus spread which include a ban of all public gatherings, as Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights we wish to implore the government to further instruct the decongestion of ZUPCO buses to atleast half their carrying capacity in order to minimize human to human contact and Corona virus risk.

We note with great concern that ZUPCO buses are one of the most congested public spaces and that puts both the passengers and crew at Corona risk. The queues and congestion in ZUPCO buses is high corona risk.

We further appreciate the stance taken by the President in declaring Coronavirus a national disaster and we appeal to the citizens to heed the call and practice safety and security measures. We also appeal to citizens to refrain from spreading fake news about the virus outbreak as this causes unnecessary panic and pandemonium.