PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has instructed Treasury to urgently buy a fleet of brand new vehicles for the police, including all-terrain troop carriers, water cannons, buses and equipment used by riot police, as the government prepares to enforce a renewed Covid-19 lockdown.
The cash-strapped government courted controversy in April when Finance minister Mthuli Ncube wrote to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) begging for financial assistance. The IMF has since spurned the overtures, citing Zimbabwe’s failure to implement economic and political reforms.
This urgent procurement request comes as the restive population gears for the July 31 demonstrations organised by the opposition to protest against corruption.
Senior government officials told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that Mnangagwa, in a top-level meeting on Tuesday, instructed Ncube during a fiery debate on how to contain the Covid-19 pandemic to arm and equip the police so that they can effectively enforce the restriction measures.
Covid-19 cases have increased sharply in recent weeks, prompting public health experts to warn that the country was hitting a peak characterised by higher mortality and rising infection numbers.
Official sources said soon after Vice-President Kembo Mohadi — who chairs the national Covid-19 taskforce — presented a gloomy report, Mnangagwa asked Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe why the police were failing to effectively enforce the level two lockdown rules.
Mnangagwa, the sources said, expressed concern over the flooding of streets in major cities and towns, against the restrictive measures which prohibit “unnecessary movements”.
Kazembe is said to have replied that from his engagements with Zimbabwe Republic Police bosses, it had emerged that police were hampered from enforcing the lockdown rules by a lack of vehicles and fuel.
“Basically, there was an intense discussion over the proliferation of Covid-19 cases in the country over the past few weeks. All members agreed that the current level two was not sustainable and we needed to be stricter in enforcing the lockdown if we are to avoid a total catastrophe. Everyone blamed the police for the failure since people are now moving around so freely as if there is no deadly pandemic in our midst,” an official said.
“So as this discussion went on, the President himself took issue with Kazembe and asked him to explain what the problem really was. Mnangagwa said from what is obtaining on the ground, it appears there is general fatigue in terms of efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus. People are not following the lockdown rules and are highly mobile.
“In his response, Kazembe told the meeting that he has held meetings with senior police officers over the same concerns in the past two weeks and one thing which they have consistently raised as being the biggest hindrance was the shortage of vehicles and lack of fuel. He said ZRP bosses have indicated to him that they are relying on a handful of old trucks which suffer frequent breakdowns.