Covid-19: Govt using lockdown measures as weapon to thwart democracy?

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Information ministry secretary Nick Mangwana

IT appears government has resorted to capitalising on the COVID-19 pandemic and using stringent lock-down measures as a weapon to crack down on dissent and protests.

This assertion follows Information ministry secretary Nick Mangwana’s hint on Wednesday, where he mooted tightening lock-down restrictions in Harare and Bulawayo, the supposed epicentres of civil protests.

Coincidentally, Mangwana’s assertions come ahead of July 31 demonstrations planned by civic society organisations to protest against corruption, poverty and human rights abuse.

“Harare has the vast majority of positive COVID-19 cases. Yesterday, Bulawayo recorded 30 of the 53 positive cases. If there is any scaling up of containment measures, a more surgical approach is better. It means full-scale lock-down should only apply to Harare and Bulawayo,” Mangwana tweeted on Wednesday.

Human rights lobby group Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network noted that some African governments had adopted a clampdown on pro-democrats and civilians under cover of Covid-19 restrictions.

“The disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 measures on the poor demonstrated that civil and political rights are as important as economic and social rights and are mutually reinforcing. The poor, who were forced to go out of their homes to look for food and livelihood, were the ones who came face to face with the might of the police and army,” Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network noted.

During the national lock-down which was decreed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on March 30, several civic group leaders have been arrested for violation of the restrictions.

In May, three Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance youth leaders, namely Joana Mamombe, Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri were arrested after engaging in a flash demonstration.

MDC-A leader Nelson Chamisa condemned the arrests and indefinite extension of lock-down.

He said such practice was tantamount to arbitrary rule.

“Without consultation with us all, the indefinite extension of the lock-down opens a treacherous avenue to arbitrary rule. It indefinitely suspends the exercise of civil and political rights which are necessary checks and balances on the excesses of governmental power,” Chamisa said.

Critics submitted that government was using Covid-19 lockdown measures to achieve political outcomes.

“Look at the timing of more stringent lock-down regulations. Although Nick (Mangwana) did not put it as fact that there is going to be a total lock-down, we all know his modus operandi when announcing government policy. He is not one of the best propagandists, but he is slowly getting better. Government is quacking in its feet ahead of July 31 hence the strategic restrictions,” opined a political commentator who refused to be identified.

Zanu-PF national political commissar Victor Matemadanda recently made sensational claims that the July 31 mass demonstrations were Western sponsored to the tune of US$300 000.

Meanwhile, Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume is confident that the mass protests will have overwhelming support.

He told Zim Morning Post this week, that they are expecting Zimbabweans from across the country to participate.

Zimbabwe has 885 confirmed cases, 202 recoveries and nine deaths.

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