SENIOR STAFF WRITER
THE courts sent a strong message yesterday to those violating the country’s national coronavirus regulations after they jailed popular Zimdancehall producers DJ Fantan and Levels, as well as music promoter Boss Dammer, for organising an illegal gig on New Year’s eve that was attended by hundreds of people.
The three men were jailed for an effective six months, becoming the first known cases of people imprisoned for contravening Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 protocols, which were introduced by the government at the beginning of the national lockdown in March last year.
This comes as police have suspended four senior officers for dereliction of duty, after they failed to stop the New Year’s eve jamboree in Harare’s high density suburb of Mbare last Thursday — which was held in flagrant violation of coronavirus restrictions.
In sentencing the men, Harare magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti-Guriro said a fine or community service penalty for the trio was not sufficient, as authorities needed to send a strong message regarding irresponsible behaviour when it came to dealing with the lethal pandemic.
“What they did is serious and a fine would be a mockery. Community service is suspended by the Practice Direction 1 of 2021 and this would be like allowing them to walk free,” she ruled.
Muchuchuti-Guriro also said the three men’s actions had far-reaching consequences in so far as this potentially exposed people to the deadly disease.
DJ Fantan (real name Arnold Kamudyariwa), Tafadzwa Kadzimwe (who operates as Levels) and Dammer (real name Simbarashe Chanachimwe) had apologised to the police and the nation when they appeared before Muchuchuti-Guriro on Tuesday, where they pleaded guilty to the charges they faced.
The trio was arrested after pictures and video footage of the event went viral on social media, with hundreds of people in attendance, despite a ban on big gatherings amid the Covid-19 pandemic — sparking a national outcry.
What also riled the public was that the shindig occurred just a stone’s throw away from Matapi Police Station.
In response, police on Monday suspended four senior officers based at the station, for allowing the gig to go ahead.
“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,” the police said.