Returnees stage protest, allege police assault

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Nokuthaba Nkomo
STAFF WRITER
nkomon@dailynews.co.zw

RETURNEES quarantined at Belvedere Teachers’ College were on Sunday allegedly beaten by police following a demonstration over test kit shortages which they wanted the government to address them on.

This comes after the government recently gave returnees in coronavirus (Covid-19) quarantine centres the option to have their Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests done at authorised private laboratories at a cost as it is failing to do them on time thereby delaying their release from those facilities.
It also comes as the country is facing reagents, test kits and swab shortages which has disabled the government from meeting its target of 2 000 Covid-19 tests per day.
The returnees at Belvedere first held a demonstration on Saturday protesting the government’s decision that will see them forking out about US$65 to have their tests done earlier.
On Sunday, the returnees, who blamed the government for putting its burden upon their shoulders, held another protest demanding the government to come and address them on the same issue, leading to the alleged brutality by the police.
One of the returnees who spoke to the Daily News on condition of anonymity said they were beaten for refusing to go to the dining hall for lunch.
“We refused to go for lunch before someone comes and addresses us on the issue of test kits. Some people however, went inside and started throwing plates around, triggering the police to come and beat us. Kuramba kudya ikoko kwakarovesa vanhu. Vamwe vakaita madrills tichiimba national anthem. (Our refusal to eat earned us beatings.
Others were made to march while we sang the national anthem).
“More than 50 people were beaten. There is a hostel where all the men were beaten because they were making a lot of noise. We were made to lie down on our stomachs and then they started beating us. I got hurt on the arm and buttocks.”
Police assistant commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the incident but denied the allegations that returnees were beaten.
“It’s just a minor incident which occurred yesterday (Sunday). Some returnees became confrontational and started swaying plates causing damage. I am not aware of allegations that they were beaten. The police are however, investigating the issue,” Nyathi said.
Over 3 000 returnees have come into the country and are being placed in mandatory quarantine as part of measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, with some complaining over the poor state of the holding facilities that they have been placed in across the country, which include schools and teachers’ colleges.
According to the Health ministry, returnees are supposed to be have their PCR tests done on day eight after their arrival in the country but they are reportedly having to wait up to 16 days without being tested.

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