by RICHARD MUPONDE
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has deployed senior police officers at roadblocks as it moves to tighten the lockdown restrictions and curb unnecessary movement of people.
The move came two days after the government increased fines for violating COVID-19 regulations paid at the police station from $500 to $5 000.
In a leaked memo to the police command in all districts, officer commanding Harare province Commissioner Charles Nhete said vehicles whose owners were not in the essential services category should be ordered to make a U-turn or be impounded. “No vehicles should be allowed to pass a checkpoint if they are not in the category of essential services. Such vehicles should be arrested or made to go back where they will be coming from,” Nhete said in a statement released after a meeting of January 26.
He also ordered the closure of companies which have been given exemption letters by the Industry ministry, but were not on the list of essential services with immediate effect.
“Some companies which are not in the category of essential service such as Bata Shoe Company, Bhola Hardware, furniture and clothing shops, are conducting business on the strength of letters issued by the Ministry of Industry,” the ZRP said in a memo before ordering their closure with immediate effect.
“Companies and businesses not in the category of essential service, but operating should close. This is regardless of being in possession of exemption letters. If a company or service for which an exemption letter has been issued is not exempted by law, the bearer should not be allowed to pass or operate, irrespective of who has issued that letter.”
The police boss also said funerals had become COVID-19 ‘super spreaders’ as mourners no longer adhered to the stipulated limited number of 30 people.
“Funeral gatherings have become one of the super spreaders of the coronavirus and as such, the stipulated maximum number of 30 mourners be strictly adhered to,” he said.
Nhete also said screening of deserving travellers during curfew times should be intensified, allowing passage only to those providing essential services such as those in the sectors of health including pharmacies, security services, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, energy, fuel industry and other related entities.
“An inspector should be deployed at busy roadblocks in big cities so that correct decisions are made. At other checkpoints, a sergeant or assistant inspector should be in charge depending on the level of activities at that particular point,” Nhete said.
Government on January 5 introduced a strict lockdown the ends next Friday to control the spiralling COVID-19 infections and deaths. The lockdown included a 6pm-to-6am curfew, apart from restricting businesses and workers to only essential service providers.
Meanwhile police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the leaked memo was not changing the police enforcement of the Level IV measures as pronounced by the government.
“ The public should take note that this was an internal communication guiding commanders on the implementation of Statutory Instrument 10/20 which amended the Principal order Statutory 200/2020. The Zimbabwe Republic Police has strengthened enforcement measures to ensure that entities and institutions classified as essential service providers and those which are exempted operate according to the law,” Nyathi said, adding that the police were also working on the proliferation of fake COVID-19 exemption letters and urged the public to stick to the restrictions outlined by the government without taking short cuts.
Meanwhile, Nyathi said 3 185 people were arrested on 27 January 2021 from contravening COVID-19 regulations throughout the country. “About 917 were arrested for not wearing masks while 1752 were nabbed for unnecessary movements. COVID-19 is real. The public is once again urged to take heed of the government’s health, safety and security measures and, in the process, make the job of security services easy,” he said.