Security forces expand patrols … increased national deployments of cops, army to enforce corona lockdown 

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Mugove Tafirenyika

AUTHORITIES said yesterday that they had deployed more security forces around the country, to force compliance with Covid-19 regulations, including the recently imposed dusk to dawn national curfew, the Daily News reports.
This comes as there are growing concerns that even more urban commuters will violate the new curfew orders unintentionally, due to shortages of adequate transport to carry them to and from their residences.
It also comes as the police and army stand accused of assaulting stranded commuters in Harare and Gweru this week.
Speaking in Harare yesterday, police commissioner-general Godwin Matanga warned that security forces would deal firmly with members of the public who violated lockdown regulations.
In addition, he said, operators of shebeens and other outlets that sell alcohol illegally also risked going to jail for their activities — which he warned would not be tolerated by authorities.
“Members of the public who defy the curfew order will face charges of contravening Section 17(3)(4) of Statutory Instrument 174/2020 as read with Statutory Instrument 83/2020 (which deals with failure to observe the lockdown curfew).
“Those accessing health services and water should do so in an orderly manner which promotes the safety and security of all.
“Police will ensure that there are no non-essential human and vehicular traffic movements between 1800 hours every day to 0600 hours of the following day,” Matanga emphasised.
He also announced that he had directed police commanders to ensure that patrols, roadblocks, checkpoints and awareness campaigns were intensified across the country.
“No inter-city or town public transport and rural areas movements will be allowed to pass through roadblocks and checkpoints.
“Transport operators who will try to break the curfew and move at night will be accounted for,” he warned further.
Meanwhile, Matanga also revealed that between Tuesday and Wednesday this week, police had arrested 2 654 people for contravening Covid-19 national lockdown regulations, including not wearing face masks.
He also said authorities were still grappling with people escaping from quarantine centres despite police having arrested 300 people for the offence so far.
“As of today (Friday), 284 people have escaped from isolation and quarantine centres, with 30 arrests being effected.
“Police and other security services have stepped up the issue of security at all points of entry and exit in the country,” Matanga said further.
This comes after the government imposed a dusk to dawn curfew earlier this week — under which those working in areas deemed as non-essential are expected to leave towns at 3pm and be at their residences by 6pm.
However, the curfew has coincided with a debilitating fuel crisis in the country, which has seen most filling stations which sell their products in the local currency going without petrol and diesel.
The transport shortages have left commuters in urban areas across the country in dire straits after the grounding of Zupco and other buses mandated to transport them under the current heightened national coronavirus lockdown.
In the meantime, both police and soldiers were accused of indiscriminately beating up stranded commuters in Harare on Thursday evening.
Some of the affected commuters claimed that police first fired teargas to disperse them from their bus ranks, before soldiers allegedly moved in with sjamboks — forcing them to board any bus, including those not going to their destinations.
Others said they were forced to walk home fearing for their safety.
Matanga said yesterday that he had not yet received these reports.
“If the incidents were reported to the police, I am sure investigations are being done.
“We have liaised with Zupco, through the relevant ministry, to ensure that the number of buses is increased, to ensure that people get to their homes early,” he said.
Meanwhile, rights groups have also blamed authorities for not mounting wide consultations before they introduced the tough new coronavirus regulations.
“They introduced the lockdown restrictions without a clear plan on public transport, after they banned kombis which could have come in handy at this critical juncture, as long as they were made to adhere to health guidelines.
“The consequences of this is that it is emerging from companies that have registered Covid-19 cases that Zupco and public service busses may be the source of new infections,” ZimRights national director, Dzikamai Bere, said.
Human Rights Watch director for southern Africa, Dewa Mavhinga, also said the curfew was not “well-considered as the government had an eye on July 31 protests”.
The government this week imposed a tough curfew following a dramatic surge in the number of people succumbing to the lethal virus which has now infected more than 2 000 people in the country.

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