Police Descend Hard On Curfew Violators

Police are tightening enforcement of the curfew, at present between 6pm and 6am, and those breaking it now have higher risk of arrest and impoundment of any vehicle they might be using.

Only essential services, and shift workers in those services going to and from work, are permitted to move during the curfew hours.

Already a bus crew has been jailed this week for an effective five months for breaking the curfew and organisers of a New Year’s party in Harare were jailed soon afterwards.

The curfew was imposed in the middle of last year, starting with 6pm to 6am to limit movements. The starting time was progressively eased in steps to 10pm before being brought back to 6pm at the beginning of the month as Zimbabwe was taken back to a level four lockdown to clamp down on a spike in Covid-19 infections.

However, more and more people were ignoring the curfew in the later months of last year and there was a build up of traffic to near normal levels.

When the curfew was extended to 6pm to 6am there was an almost immediate large and dramatic drop in traffic and pedestrians, with the only largish group being the stragglers getting home from their essential or permitted work in the early evening, especially if they had to take two buses to get home. And they were basically home soon after curfew.

However, over the past two weeks there have been a growing number of violators on the roads, although numbers are still far lower than last month, and that stealthy growth has triggered the police response to tighten enforcement.

In a statement, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said unauthorised movements, whether on foot or motorised, were not allowed during any curfew hours and anyone found walking or driving would be arrested, with vehicles being impounded.

“Those travelling between cities should plan their journeys so that they do not breach the curfew order. On Sunday, January 17 2021, and Monday, January 18 2021, there was chaos along Harare-Bulawayo Road, as long queues stretching from the Norton tollgate up to Whitehouse area in Harare were seen.

“Some motorists were even confrontational to the police despite the fact that most of them were non-compliant with the curfew order,” he said.

Meanwhile, on Monday, a total of 2 336 people were arrested countrywide for various offences related to contravening the national lockdown regulations.

Of these, 890 were arrested for unnecessary movement during lockdown, except those exempted, while 920 for failing to wear face masks.

So far police have arrested a total of 341 251 people since March last year for breaches of the national lockdown regulations.

“Members of the public are urged to take heed of safety, health and security measures meant to protect lives during this Covid-19 situation,” Asst Comm Nyathi said.

Illegal beer outlets, people out socialising, laxity in enforcing Covid-19 regulations and alleged corruption in allowing people to travel in breach of the lockdown and curfew have emerged as stumbling blocks in the fight against Covid-19.

There are widespread reports of intercity travel, banned by Government during the level four lockdown unless for emergency or essential purposes, amid allegations that people are paying bribes to get through some roadblocks. In Kariba, people are travelling to areas such as Makuti, Karoi, Chirundu, Harare and Chinhoyi among others in non-Zupco commuter omnibuses, which have been banned from carrying passengers since the start of the lockdown in March last year.

Kariba has 138 cases and eight deaths between December 23 and Monday.

People alleged that kombis they were in were paying between US$5 and US$10 at roadblocks mounted at Quarry in Kariba and Makuti to pass through.

However, some kombis have switched to carrying fresh produce from areas such as Karoi and the surrounding farming community, which is legal since those supplying the markets are permitted to hire transport. But they break the rules if they take a paying passenger.

Imbibers are sourcing beer from defiant outlets while there is reluctance to put on facemasks, sanitise and maintain social distance by some residents. Shebeens flourish in residential areas.

The Kariba district Covid-19 Taskforce is racing against time to set up an isolation centre with workers from the Public Works department undertaking some repair works.

However, work has stopped as some workers wait for some materials.

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