Enforcement of the Covid-19 lockdown is being intensified with 36 students and nine teachers from a private Harare college arrested on Tuesday, when police found the college operating in defiance of the lockdown.
Sixty revellers and bar owners were also arrested over the weekend after illegally opened bars were raided.
The students and staff from ZMC College in the city centre were arrested following a tip-off from the public, much the same as the assorted raids on opened bars and nightclubs were done after information was passed on to the police.
Under Level 4 lockdown measures, face-to-face lessons at all schools and colleges have been suspended, and all bars and nightclubs have been closed since the start of the lockdown in March last year, although bottle stores can sell take-away alcohol during normal shop hours.
Those caught in the raids are usually released after paying admission of guilt fines, although the police reserve the right to take culprits to court if they reckon the offence is more serious than a deposit fine can cover.
In addition, the police pass on details of any business that opens in defiance of the regulations, or opens outside the permitted hours, to the appropriate licensing authority, which could suspend or cancel the business licence.
When it came to ZMC College, the staff and students were all taken down to Harare Central Police Station for processing and most were released after being fined.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi thanked the public for their help and issued the standard warnings that those who break the law will face the consequences.
“The ZRP applauds the public for supplying credible information which goes a long way in fighting crime. This comes after police in Harare acted on a tip off and arrested 36 students and nine staff members at ZMC College for conducting lessons in violation of Covid-19 protocols,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi urged the public to continue observing Government’s Covid-19 health, safety and security protocols by wearing face masks, practising social distancing and sanitisation.
Faced with a growing spate of shebeens, bars and clubs quietly opening, police have warned bar owners and shebeen operators that they will not hesitate to arrest them if they continue defying lockdown orders. And in these arrests the liquor on the premises is seized as an exhibit.
Asst Comm Nyathi said: “Shebeen operators are warned that the law will take its course without fail. On Saturday, police in Masvingo arrested two people at a shebeen in Mucheke and recovered several crates of liquor.”
On Monday at around 11pm, police arrested Richard Musindo aged 50 for breaching the Covid-19 lockdown after he was found selling liquor at Lagoon Night Club in Majange, Masvingo.
Over the weekend police also conducted some raids on some rogue bars, beerhalls and night club operators and arrested at least 60 people who were found drinking beer in Harare.
Several people including bar operators were arrested and most of them were released after being fined. The raids were conducted in the city centre and various suburbs in and around Harare.
On Thursday last week, police arrested Tendai Mosaland at Eastview 4 in Harare after he was found selling liquor. Several alcohol brands were recovered from the premises.
Last Saturday night, they also arrested Christina Zilala (37) and Clifford Takaendesa after they were found selling beer to people in Chitungwiza. Police impounded several crates of beer.
There were recent reports that owners of bars, beerhalls and night clubs who breach lockdown regulations face arrest and will be reported to the Liquor Licensing Board, which may revoke their licences, the police have warned.
Bars, beerhalls and night clubs have to remain closed. While bottle stores can sell alcohol, their customers cannot drink on site.
Police said they will ensure that licences are handed over to the relevant Government arms for the stipulated penalties to be effected.
The lockdown at all levels targets social drinking as a major incubator of Covid-19, and the higher levels of lockdown target restaurants with sit-in customers although they are allowed to sell take-away food and drink. Restaurants at lower levels can have limited sit-in diners, so long as they are spaced out. A major problem with drinking and eating is that people cannot do this while masked, and in a social environment they tend to ignore all the other safeguards.