By Bongani Ndlovu
Police have given a stern warning to those who will operate or patronise shebeens during the lockdown saying all those who will be found there will be arrested and appear in court.
Due to a spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths, Zimbabwe on Saturday extended the nationwide curfew (6pm to 6am), banned gatherings and ordered non-essential businesses to close for a month in an effort to curb a surge in coronavirus infections.
Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, who is also Minister of Health and Child Care, announcing the additional lockdown measures on Saturday, said restaurants, bottle stores and bars are to be closed for 30 days except for those serving hotel residents.
Last year when bars and restaurants were shut down due to similar measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, shebeens and house parties sprouted all over the country, especially in Bulawayo as people found other ways to keep themselves entertained.
While this seemed like a good way to beat the lockdown boredom, this in fact, posed a serious risk with one of the parties that was held in Burnside having been reported to have caused a spike in Covid-19 cases in Bulawayo.
To try and avoid this and protect the city’s residents from the deadly virus that continues to shake the world as more countries are seeing a new surge in daily cases, Bulawayo province police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube yesterday said they are in a no-nonsense mood this time around.
“We don’t expect people to be operating shebeens. Anyone who patronises a shebeen and the shebeen queens and kings themselves should know that they are subject to being arrested and prosecution. Therefore, we want to urge people not, and I repeat, not dare patronise a shebeen,” sternly cautioned Insp Ncube.
Those found wanting, Insp Ncube said will answer in court.
“There is no option of paying a fine. You will have to appear in court and they will determine whether you pay a fine, get imprisoned or both.”
He said most shebeen operators, have been defiant.
“A lot of shebeen operators are repeat offenders so they now need to go to court. They are selling alcohol without a licence and that’s an offence under the Liquor Act. Also, they and their patrons will be contravening the Covid-19 regulations and the curfew put in place by Government,” said Insp Ncube.
Shebeens and house parties, most of which operate secretively are a serious cause for concern as Covid-19 preventative measures such as social distancing and wearing of masks are not observed while sanitisation of hands is thrown out of the window putting all those in attendance and their loved ones at serious risk.
Last year, Bulawayo Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Judith Ncube took a swipe at shebeen operators, patrons and other Covid-19 lockdown violators for endangering the lives of others and frustrating efforts by city health officials in containing the pandemic. The Chronicle