Govt tightens screws on COVID-19 information

GOVERNMENT has introduced stringent measures and penalties meant to curtail the flow of information during the 21-day national lockdown, with those accused of spreading falsehoods on coronavirus being liable to a 20-year jail term, a hefty fine or both.

BY MOSES MATENGA/SILAS NKALA

The measures were gazetted on Friday under Statutory Instrument 83 of the 2020 Public Health, COVID-19 Prevention, Containment, Treatment and Lockdown Order.

“For the avoidance of doubt any person who publishes or communicates false news about any public officer involved with enforcing or implementing the national lockdown in his or her capacity as such, or about any private individual that has the effect of prejudicing the State’s enforcement of the national lockdown, shall be liable for prosecution under section 31 of the Criminal Law Code and liable to the penalty there provided, that is to say a fine up to or exceeding level 14 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 20 years or both,” the Gazzete read.

But media rights activists yesterday warned that the measures were meant to silence other voices and entrench State propaganda as government moves to manage dissemination of information relating to the deadly virus. The country has to date recorded seven cases and one death, with government accused of understating the infection figures.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a complete lockdown that began last night, with a special taskforce led by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga in charge of everything to do with management of the disease.

Government has also banned hoarding of medical supplies and food.

“No person shall, at his or her home or in any other premises or location, hoard medical supplies needed to combat COVID-19.

“No person shall, at his or her home or in any other premises or location, hoard food in excess of what is needed to be stored for himself or herself and his or her family during the period of the national lockdown.”

In the event of suspicion of hoarding an enforcement officer, armed with a warrant, would conduct a search and seizure at the premises.

Human rights activist Siphosami Malunga, who is also executive director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, said the penalties were grossly excessive and likely to stifle scrutiny, muzzle social media and shield accountability of public officials.

“The government must reconsider these provisions. A draconian enforcement of the lockdown will make an already potentially inflammatory situation where frustrated and hungry people are confined to their homes incendiary and explosive. There’s going to be no winners otherwise.

“The provision regarding “false reporting during national lockdown” is vague and violates constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression . . . The penalties are grossly excessive and the consequence is that it is likely to stifle scrutiny, muzzle social media and shield accountability of public officials.”

He said the order impinged on citizens’ constitutional rights.

“This provision is unconstitutional and violates the right to private property. It makes it illegal for people who have stocked up their own food before the coronavirus, totally unreasonable in a food insecure country. It opens the door for abuse by law enforcement to confiscate people’s food supplies. The penalty has a fine or one year imprisonment or both,” Malunga said

“This provision renders anyone who has food to last more than the 21 days lockdown in their house in violation of the law. It is completely ridiculous!”

Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi defended the tough measures.

“There is no human rights law that permits hoarding of food stuffs,” he said.

Do you have a coronavirus story? You can email us on: news@alphamedia.co.zw


14 Comments

  1. I just want to mention I am just all new to weblog and really enjoyed you’re web-site. Likely I’m planning to bookmark your website . You actually come with fabulous article content. Bless you for sharing your blog.

  2. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already Cheers!

  3. Hey there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing several weeks of hard work due to no back up. Do you have any solutions to prevent hackers?

  4. I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this blog. I’m hoping to see the same high-grade blog posts from you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my very own site now 😉

  5. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a colleague who was doing a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me dinner because I discovered it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this subject here on your web site.

  6. Having read this I thought it was extremely enlightening. I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this information together. I once again find myself spending a significant amount of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it.

  7. Do you believe reincarnation? Do you think past lives regression is real?

  8. Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to create a great article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and never seem to get anything done.

  9. I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and interesting, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is something that not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy I came across this in my hunt for something concerning this.

  10. Hi, I do believe this is a great blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to revisit yet again since I bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.

  11. One more issue is that video games can be serious in nature with the key focus on understanding rather than leisure. Although, there’s an entertainment facet to keep your children engaged, just about every game is frequently designed to develop a specific set of skills or course, such as numbers or technology. Thanks for your publication.

  12. This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Thanks!

  13. You need to take part in a contest for one of the best sites on the web. I most certainly will highly recommend this blog!

  14. This site was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Many thanks.

Comments are closed.