By Mthabisi Tshuma
Some supermarkets have been allowed to sell alcohol during the 21-day lockdown but police will arrest anyone found drinking outdoors and those who sell liquor without permission.
Offenders will pay up to $500 in fines.
Retail outlets and those with exemptions as outlined in terms of Statutory Instruments 82 and 83 of 2020 Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order, 2020, are the only businesses allowed to sell alcohol.
Police had issued a blanket ban on alcohol sales after imbibers were drinking in groups, thereby defying the social distancing directive.
Yesterday, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said exempted supermarkets can sell alcohol if they follow the lockdown rules.
“Members of the public should take note that off premises beer outlets such as supermarkets who have got exemptions are allowed to sell liquor to members of the public for consumption off the premises.
“All licensed bottle stores/outlets who offer off premises sales are reminded to conduct their business according to Covid-19 guidelines,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
Individuals who access off the premises liquor sales are not allowed to conduct parties at home, invite friends to drink as groups or to operate shebeens.
Producers of alcohol in Bulawayo namely Ingwebu Breweries, African Distillers (Afdis) and Delta Beverages had already observed the blanket ban by stopping deliveries whereas retailers and imbibers had opposed the development.
Zimbabweans have questioned whether the declaration is legal without a statutory instrument to back it up.
However, police maintained that as part of emergency measures to maintain order, they have the power to use their discretion for such bans to ensure compliance to the lockdown.
In a snap survey by Chronicle yesterday, TM Pick n Pay Hyper at around 12pm was selling alcoholic beverages with authorities saying they had not received communication from the “high office” to ban the sale.
The public took advantage and some Bulawayo residents were seen hoarding liquor to “ensure they pass the remaining fortnight in style.”
Said Asst Comm Nyathi: “We realised that people drinking alcohol were clashing with police officers causing problems.
“Bars, nightclubs and beerhalls were closed. Basically, the police are enforcing the measures announced by the Government if there is anyone concerned about the issue and queries, they should go back and engage the Ministerial Taskforce. (Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on the Covid-19) which is currently coordinating everything.
“What police officers are doing on the ground is to ensure there is law and order and misuse of alcohol is causing clashes that are making enforcement of the lockdown difficulty.”
Ingwebu Breweries managing director Mr Dumisani Mhlanga said the company had stopped production.
“This ban comes after we had already closed down and scaled down production. We have stopped brewing completely and we are urging the nation to rally behind the ideas put in place to curb the virus as we believe in the afterlife after the pandemic, we will be together,” said Mr Mhlanga.
African Distillers Limited general manager Mr Cecil Gombera said: “In line with Government regulations we are in a shutdown and have stopped production.”
Delta Corporate Affairs Executive Mrs Patricia Murambinda said:
“We are operating within the guidelines as per SI 82 & 83. Issues of public drinking are already outlawed and therefore the police should deal with such offenders.
“Moreso, if there are gatherings where people are not abiding with the social distancing and hygiene standards, alcohol is forbidden.” The Chronicle