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People dash for essential goods… as dusk-to-dawn curfew kicks in

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Mugove Tafirenyika

and Godknows Matarutse

STAFF WRITERS

ZIMBABWEANS thronged shops and banks around the country yesterday as they rushed to stock up on essential goods ahead of the revised national coronavirus lockdown, which starts today.

At the same time, police warned that they would descend heavily on violators of the tightened stay-at-home order, as authorities also announced the suspension of senior police officers who allegedly allowed a controversial New Year’s eve gig in Harare last week which violated Covid-19 regulations.

All this comes as Zimbabwe enters into a second hard coronavirus lockdown inside 10 months, as President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government fight to curb the spread of the lethal disease, which has killed 33 people in the past week alone — amid soaring numbers of people getting infected by the novel virus.

It also comes as the government has warned Zimbabweans to behave or risk dying from Covid-19, following an alarming drop in discipline with regards to the guidelines and protocols imposed by authorities to mitigate the spread of the killer virus.

Yesterday, desperate Zimbabweans flooded supermarkets and financial institutions in Harare, Bulawayo and other major towns — in a last-minute scramble for essential goods, ahead of the new dusk-to-dawn curfew.

In Harare, the central business district (CBD) was barely accessible, as people thronged shops and banks.

Motorists also found it difficult to go about their business, as they were caught in their own version of lockdown due to high volumes of traffic on major roads leading into the capital’s CBD.

Some of the shoppers who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said they needed to withdraw money and to buy as many essentials as possible before the hard lockdown kicked in.

“I thought I would withdraw the money sent to me by my son in South Africa any day this week, but now because of the announced lockdown, my family will not have anything to eat for the whole month if I fail to get it today.

“I am not sure that I will be able to go in because the queue is too long as you can see. I hope they will allow all of us to access our money today … as tomorrow I will not be allowed into town,” Miriam Jwanyira (51), from Glen View high density suburb said.

Tapiwa Makwinya, of Manyame Park in Chitugwiza,  said it was a struggle to just get transport into town, as people were scrambling to do last minute business.

“It was not easy to get transport from Chitungwiza because almost everyone wanted to utilise this day to make last minute transactions, given that we were on holiday where we used up whatever little money we had saved.

“With this lockdown, we cannot come to town to do business, saka tave kutombongwavha-ngwavha nekuti tiri pama one (So, we have to run around because we are in a fix),” Makwinya, who makes a living selling belts and car phone chargers, said.

Authorities toughened the coronavirus lockdown at the weekend, in the wake of soaring deaths and the rapid spread of the deadly respiratory disease which killed 33 people last week alone.

The reversion to a hard lockdown saw authorities re-introducing a fresh dusk-to-dawn curfew.

In addition, the operations of all businesses — except those providing essential services — were once again suspended for 30 days, as authorities battle to curb the spread of the lethal disease.

The re-imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew means that people are prohibited from being out and about  between 6pm and 6am, except for those providing essential services.

In addition, supermarkets will operate from 8am to 3pm. But air travel and essential land transportation across borders for trucks will continue under the new measures announced by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the country’s Health minister.

Yesterday, police warned that they would brook no nonsense during the lockdown — promising to arrest people who violated the strict coronavirus restrictions, especially those relating to gatherings, the wearing of face masks in public, physical distancing and opening of bars.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police reiterates that only employees in the essential services sector such as health, food distribution, bank institutions, mining services, communication and telecommunications, and agricultural production will be allowed to pass through checkpoints and roadblocks.

“The public is, therefore, implored to take heed of the government’s Covid-19 national lockdown Level Four measures and restrictions, and stay at home — except for movement to access food and medicines.

“Police will arrest anyone found in public places without wearing or improperly putting on masks and not practising social distancing,” national police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said.

He also revealed that authorities had suspended four senior police officers for dereliction of duty, after they failed to stop the New Year’s eve music jamboree which attracted thousands of people in Harare’s high density suburb of Mbare last Thursday — in flagrant violation of coronavirus restrictions.

More than 50 people — who include popular Zim dancehall producer DJ Fantan, and David House International promoter Boss Dammer — have since been arrested for organising the alleged Covid-19 super spreader party.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police confirms that Superintendent Innocent Makumbe, Inspector Garikai Jiyane (officer-in-charge, Matapi), Inspector Peace Nyarai Gunhe (duty officer), and Assistant Inspector Vengai Mupamhanga (duty member) have been suspended from police duties by the commissioner general of police pending disciplinary action.

“Investigations have revealed that the senior officer and junior members did not perform their duties according to police set standards and government’s Covid-19 regulations in handling the illegal Mbare musical bash held by DJ Fantan and his associates on December 31 2020,” Nyathi said.

This comes as acting President Kembo Mohadi has appealed to the public to maintain their discipline during the lockdown.

“We appeal to you fellow Zimbabweans that whilst scientists all over the world are working on a vaccine, it remains imperative that you and I adhere to the measures as stipulated.

“The complex nature of the virus and its mutation remains worrisome for all of us, hence the mandatory compliance to the measures we are putting in place as government.

“In past lockdowns, we achieved a lot in controlling the spread of the virus. This was achieved by a unity of purpose … as leadership we observe the general laxity and carelessness of our people to adhere to set protocols.

“Our security agencies, health officials and educational institution heads will continue to enforce stricter standard operation procedures to ensure the safety of all citizens,” Mohadi said on Monday.

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