Godknows Matarutse and Blessings Mashaya
SENIOR STAFF WRITERS
AS THE country remains in the vice grip of the deadly coronavirus, amid soaring deaths and infections, police have made a fresh appeal to Zimbabweans to improve their discipline and heed all current lockdown measures.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, police national spokesperson Paul Nyathi, said it was disconcerting that they had been compelled to arrest nearly 40 000 people who had broken Covid-19 regulations nationally since New Year’s Day.
This comes as political analysts have urged authorities to consider deploying soldiers again, to complement the police in enforcing lockdown measures.
“It’s very disturbing to note the worrying levels of indiscipline among ordinary citizens. People are taking this disease for granted.
“Since January 1, we have arrested close to 40 000 people for disregarding lockdown protocols. We are arresting not less than 2 000 people per day. “For example, yesterday (Sunday) we arrested 2 383 people, while on Saturday we arrested 2 700,” a despairing Nyathi told the Daily News.
“This past weekend we had to deploy police … to many places where people had gathered in huge numbers. Very worrying is the fact that many are not taking precautionary measures like wearing masks. “A lot of people were arrested for not wearing masks, operating shebeens and disregarding other protocols. “What people should know
is that it’s not just about avoiding being arrested, but about your health and that of others,” Nyathi further told the Daily News.
All this comes as Zimbabwe continues to battle to contain the deadly respiratory disease which has killed more than 200 people in the past week alone, amid rising infections and growing ill-discipline by ordinary people. Zimbabwe entered its third week of the stiffened stayat-home coronavirus order this past weekend, which was imposed by authorities in a bid to curb Covid-19’s spread in the country.
Amid the heightened calls for better public discipline, political analysts once again implored the government yesterday to deploy soldiers to help enforce the current hard lockdown. University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, was among those who said the government now needed to seriously consider deploying the army to assist police in enforcing lockdown measures.
“The presence of the military can be enough. They must be in ghettos and all streets so that people follow Covid-19
measures. However, there is no need for brutality. “People must just be responsible because this is a deadly disease. If we fail to act responsibly, the government can then use all necessary tools,” Masunungure told the Daily News.
“In the first phase of the lockdown, the government used two tools — persuasion and the stick. However, people are currently not following the measures. “The lockdown needs to be tightened, as persuasion has failed and the only option left is the stick.
“When a child does something wrong, you give him sweets to persuade him to do right. But when that fails, you may use the stick and that’s the same situation we are in here now.
“South Africa is deploying the stick and in our situation we need more sticks to deter people,” Masunungure said
further. On their part, the opposition also said authorities needed to review the current stay-at home order by tightening the loopholes which people were taking advantage of.
MDC spokesperson Witness Dube said there was need “for stricter enforcement, with a robust public awareness programme on the potency of the new strain”.
“The government must provide free masks to those who can’t afford them. It needs to make sure front line health
staff is capacitated to deal with the numbers of new patients. “The army is not necessary at this stage if enforcement is done properly. There is a serious lack of trust in the army,” Dube said.
This comes as Zimbabwe continues to witness ballooning numbers of deaths of people succumbing to the lethal virus.
Last Friday, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga urged Zimbabweans not to panic, but to be even more vigilant in their daily lives as the country continued to reel from the spiralling cases of Covid-19. Chiwenga’s plea followed the death of Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba, who became the latest high-profile Zimbabwean to succumb to the deadly virus.
Gwaradzimba became the second minister to die from coronavirus — after the former Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement minister, Perrance Shiri, also succumbed to the disease in July last year.
Shiri, a liberation struggle stalwart and former military commander — who was born Bigboy Samson Chikerema before he joined the war for independence in the 1970s — endured a difficult and lonely death in his car, as he tried in vain to drive himself to a hospital for treatment. Chiwenga — who is also Health and Child Care minister — said authorities were doing all they could to manage the disease, further rejecting social media chatter that the country did not have adequate beds and equipment to deal with Covid-19 patients.
“It would be … an exaggeration at this stage, to suggest that our health institutions are overwhelmed by cases of Covid-19. “Admittedly, the recent escalation of cases of the pandemic caused a high demand for healthcare. “Nonetheless, let me reassure citizens that Zimbabwe’s public and private health institutions still have adequate capacity to offer health services to all patients,” Chiwenga said.
“It is also well-documented that among the active cases recorded so far … two to three percent warranted hospitalisation with specialised treatment. “At least 12 to 13 percent required discharge within two to three days of admission … while the bulk of 85 percent only required self-isolation,” Chiwenga added.
The recent reversion to a hard lockdown has seen authorities re-introducing a fresh dusk-to-dawn curfew. The re-imposed curfew means that people are prohibited from being out and about between 6pm and 6am, except for those providing essential services.
In addition, the operations of all businesses — except those providing essential services — were also once again suspended for 30 days, as authorities battled to curb the spread of the lethal disease.