Mberengwa ward 24 Councillor, Mr Vakai is denying food aid to community members who have not been vaccinated against COVID 19.During a meeting conducted on 15 May 2020, the Councillor announced that community members who were hesitant to get vaccinated were not going to receive food aid from the Department of Social Welfare. Mberengwa ward 24 is under Chief Nyanhondo.
This was revealed by Heal Zimbabwe trained Human Rights Monitors (HRMs) that are deployed in Mberengwa. According to verified reports, the Councillor told community members that he received a directive to deny food aid to anyone who is not vaccinated against COVID 19.”It is my duty to support government’s programme of mass vaccinations and just a few days ago I got a directive from the top leadership to deny food aid to anyone who doesn’t take the COVID 19 vaccine”, said the Councillor during a community meeting. When community members quizzed him on the availability of the vaccine at local clinics, he highlighted that they were free to visit local health centres for more information. Participants at the meeting also highlighted that at Munene hospital and Utsanana clinic, there was low uptake of the vaccine owing to issues of vaccine hesitancy. This was primarily because of the little information around the vaccine and other religious beliefs around the efficiency of the vaccines. As part of response to this, Heal Zimbabwe has already submitted a comprehensive Human Rights violations report to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC),a commission established under Chapter 12 of the constitution with a mandate of promoting awareness of and respect for human rights and freedoms at all levels of society.
HRMs from other areas such as Mbire also reported that the ongoing Zanu PF District Coordinating Committees strengthening and restructuring exercise was creating tensions among community members ahead of the 2023 elections. In Mbire wards 8 and 9, community members are being forced to join the ruling party structures or face denial of food aid mostly from the Department of Social Welfare. In Chipinge the same restructuring exercise has seen the ruling party convening meetings that have numbers exceeding the COVID 19 restrictions. Other political parties are not being allowed to conduct their meetings by the police who from time to time are disrupting meetings organised by opposition political parties highlighting that the meetings are violating COVID 19 regulations.
Human Rights monitoring is one among initiatives by Heal Zimbabwe as part of efforts to empower local communities to help safeguard against human rights abuse and also help build peaceful communities. Heal Zimbabwe utilizes various strategies to address conflicts in local communities. One of these ways is the use of community dialogues, an initiative for communities to discuss and collectively identify ways through which they can proffer solutions to problems in their communities. The platforms also equip communities with relevant information on Covid 19, Gender Based Violence (GBV) and human rights. Such platforms also facilitate local level conversations on pertinent issues affecting communities as well as create socially cohesive communities.