Zimbabwe passes Covid-19 law
Publish date: 26 March 2020
Issue Number: 4905
Diary: Legalbrief Today
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has enacted a law that allows the arrest of people who defy his Covid-19 lockdown measures. Under statutory instrument 77, those who are found in crowds of more than 50 people will be arrested and jailed for up to a year. The figure was reduced from 100 after Zimbabwe registered its first Covid-19 death – prominent journalist Zororo Makamba. However, TimesLIVE reports that residents in Harare and Bulawayo are going about their business as usual. There are long queues for mealie meal and fuel, and at banks. Supermarkets and restaurants remain open. Shop owner Stanley Dube said the public has two options – ‘die of Covid-19 or face starvation, so we would rather take our chances'.
And thousands of hospital nurses went on strike on Wednesday over a lack of protective gear and water shortages days after the country reported its first coronavirus cases. A report on the News24 site notes that Zimbabwe has recorded three cases in less than a week and one of the patients, a 30-year-old broadcaster, died on Monday. In a notice to government, the nurses are demanding personal protective equipment, water and a coronavirus risk allowance. Business Day reports that Hospital Doctors Association president Tawanda Zvakada said medical staff had stopped reporting for duty after the government failed to respond to their request for protective equipment. 'Whilst you continue to run about putting things in place, we would like to make it clear in no uncertain terms that our members will not be able to continue carrying out their duties with immediate effect. Any inconveniences caused regarding this position we have taken is sincerely regrettable but it was necessitated by a communication breakdown between the top management and front-line doctors,' he said.
Staying in Zimbabwe, several banks have seen closures at some of their branches, while others are no longer accepting physical documents. A Fin24 report notes that Stanbic Bank, a unit of SA's Standard Bank, was one of the first to announce preventive measures, telling customers that paper-based transactions would no longer be accepted. 'In the interest of public health, and with immediate effect, please be advised that we will only be accepting payments via Business Online. All other bank instructions and letters must be sent on e-mail and accompanied by the attached email indemnity form, which must be completed and signed by the authorised signatories,' read a notice sent to clients. Cabs, a subsidiary of Old Mutual Zimbabwe, announced similar measures, telling its customers that hard copy instructions would not be accepted until further notice.
The third person to die of Covid-19 complications in the DRC is a respected human rights lawyer and an aide to President Félix Tshisekedi. Jean-Joseph Mukendi wa Mulumba was the acting head of President Tshisekedi’s legal advisory council. BBC News reports that it is suspected that he contracted the respiratory illness during a trip to France for a medical check-up. Mulumba has been a key figure in opposition politics and in human rights circles for many years.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has asked G20 leaders for $150bn in emergency funding to deal with coronavirus, saying that it ‘poses an existential threat’ to the economies of African countries. A report on the News24 site notes that he added that creditors should partly write off national debt for low-income countries. France is planning to organise financial aid for poor countries, especially in Africa. ‘We will have the opportunity to mobilise a real financial package, of help, to prevent this epidemic from veering towards regions or sub-continents which aren't contaminated today but could be a risk for us tomorrow,’ said Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Experts have repeatedly warned that Africa is deeply vulnerable to the new virus.
Germany says it is trying to track down 6m face masks ordered to protect health workers, which have gone missing from an airport in Kenya. Der Spiegel said the shipment was due in Germany on 20 March but never arrived after disappearing at the end of last week. BBC News reports that it is unclear why the masks were in Kenya. An unidentified source is quoted as saying ‘whether this is a matter of theft or a provider who isn’t serious, is being cleared up by customs’. However, CapitalFM reports that the Kenya Airports Authority has dismissed the claims which were published in several international media organisations, including Reuters and Agence France Presse. ‘Our investigation has concluded that there was no cargo of this nature that has passed through JKIA (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport) for the past two weeks and no missing cargo has been reported to the authorities,’ the Kenya Airports Authority said in a statement.
The DRC has imposed a two-day lockdown in Haut-Katanga, an area rich in copper and cobalt, after two people tested positive for the coronavirus, provincial Governor Jacques Kyabula Katwe is quoted in Mining Weekly as saying. He said the boundaries of the south-eastern province, whose capital was the mining hub of Lubumbashi, would also be closed. Ivanhoe, MMG and Chemaf are among the mining companies with concessions there. From Monday, only the military, police, medical staff and authorised civil servants would be allowed to travel round the province. Otherwise, transport from trucks to bicycles and barges has been halted.
Glencore's Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) mine, a copper and cobalt project in the DRC, has repatriated 26 foreign workers in response to the country's coronavirus outbreak, Mining Weekly reports. Charles Kumbi, a regional programme director with the IndustriALL union, which has an affiliate at KCC, said the workers had been sent home on 'technical leave' but would resume work once the situation stabilised.
More than 4 000 prisoners will be released in Ethiopia as the government continues to take measures to control the spread. The Attorney-General yesterday said prisoners convicted of minor offences and women with babies were among those who would be freed. BBC News reports that foreigners charged with involvement in with smuggling and drug trafficking would also be released and deported to their countries of origin. All passengers travelling to Ethiopia are be quarantined for 14 days in eight hotels selected by authorities.