BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/ KENNETH NYANGANI/ RICHARD MUPONDE
MEMBERS of the Johane Marange apostolic sect remain gathered in their thousands for their annual festival in Bocha, Marange in Manicaland province, with the police maintaining they are unaware of the illegal gathering.
The gathering started on July 3 and is set to end on July 17.
Church gatherings are banned under the safety measures government imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 which has wreaked havoc in the country, killing over 2 000 people since March last year.
On July 12, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) wrote to police demanding the dispersal of the gathering, and on the same day, the Marange Development Trust and Bocha Development Community Trust gave the law enforcement agents a 48-hour ultimatum to act, but police yesterday professed ignorance on the gathering.
“I am not aware of that. I may need to find out from the respective province. I am also not aware of the alleged rallies,” said national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi when asked about the selective application of COVID-19 restrictions by police.
Manicaland provincial police spokesperson Inspector Luxon Chananda also said he was yet to go on the ground to verify.
“We are yet to check on the ground,” Chananda said.
ZLHR yesterday said the police had not yet responded to its letter demanding that the gathering be dispersed.
“No response yet to the Mapostori letter,” ZLHR lawyer Peggy Vaswera said.
The country is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths, recording 38 deaths and as high as 2 845 infections on Tuesday.
Mnangagwa on Wednesday said most of the recorded cases were of the lethal Delta variant, which was first detected in India, and has left a trail of destruction across the world.
Bocha Development Community Trust leader Moses Mukwada said they wrote to police after noticing that government was not taking the issue seriously.
“It’s very unfortunate that government is not taking the issue of COVID-19 seriously. We visited the shrine and people are still coming for the event. What disturbs us the most is that some of the people are coming from as far as South Africa and Namibia,” he said.
Yesterday, Mnangagwa resigned the country’s fate over the pandemic to God, whom he described as the greatest physician.
“We also continue to call upon our people to pray without ceasing for God’s intervention and the comfort of the Holy Spirit in these difficult times of COVID 19,” he said yesterday while addressing his Zanu PF politburo members.
“Indeed, the Almighty God remains the greatest physician for the pandemic.
“As we are in our meeting today, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the very fabric of our society. Yesterday, I extended the national lockdown by another two weeks. I am aware of the impact of the lockdowns on the economy and livelihoods of our people. However, the measures are necessary and intended to protect lives.”
The President cast doubt on the holding of the ruling party’s national conference in Bindura, Mashonaland Central province, in October, proposing a virtual indaba because of COVID-19, but remained mum on the Johane Marange gathering.
Mnangagwa said government was elated by the huge turnout of citizens seeking to receive their first jab, adding that more deliveries of the vaccines were on the way.
“Two million doses that arrived in the country last week are enough to vaccinate one million people, with each receiving two doses. More vaccines have been procured and will continue to be delivered,” Mnangagwa said.
“The private sector and development partners are commended for their complementary role in the fight against the pandemic. My government was pleased to receive a donation of 50 000 Sputnik V vaccines doses from the Russian company, Across Private Limited today (yesterday).”