Hwange residents call for alcohol ban amid Covid-19 spike

By Tinashe Mungazi

Authorities in Hwange are battling sprouting shebeens which are reportedly fuelling Covid-19cases amid revelations that most are being run by security officers.

Hwange urban has of late experienced a spike in positive cases which has prompted authorities to up their game in case monitoring and management.

Mushrooming shebeens are now evident in most suburbs in the coal mining town with patrons openly drinking without observing regulations.

Residents who spoke to CITE said mushrooming shebeens were a cause for concern which were working against curbing the rise in local transmissions. They accused some police officers and politically connected people of being behind the shebeens.

“Shebeens are now a nuisance in communities and superspreaders of Covid-19. At these beer outlets, it’s common to see patrons without masks, sanitising or maintaining social distancing. These very people come into contact with some who are already infected before further exposing their families to Covid-19. When you query such behaviour the patrons ignorantly say there is no coronavirus and that the numbers are manufactured. Something should be done urgently if we are to stop the increase in cases it’s unfortunate that some police officers are also running some of the shebeens, ” said Norman Nyoni from Mpumalanga suburb.

Women under the banner Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) Hwange chapter recently wrote a petition condemning the sprouting shebeens and calling for a ban on alcohol sales.

“We had a meeting with police officers last week as women concerning the issue of shebeens which we feel is spreading Covid-19. These drinking outlets have mushroomed in every residential area with people openly flouting regulations. Such conduct is putting our lives in danger especially given that we are going through a more deadly third wave. As women we bear the brunt of the crisis, pandemics such as these make us more vulnerable. We have since petitioned authorities to ban the sale of alcohol even at supermarkets as this is contributing to irresponsible behaviour,” said Catherine Madondo, the chapter’ chairperson.

She said though concerned residents had supplied authorities with contact information and locations of people who ran shebeens no meaningful action had been taken to stop the scourge.

“We are worried with the way police are handling the issue of shebeen. We supplied them with the necessary information to bring to book the culprits but nothing has been done to bring a stop to it. We call on authorities to intervene as we suspect that the failure to clamp down on these offenders is a result of the fact that some police officers are actually running these shebeens. It’s very unfair to say the least.”

Greater Whange Residents Trust has appealed to authorities to work with residents structures to curb the sprouting shebeens.

“We are very much concerned with the upsurge of coronavirus in Hwange district and the closure of beerhalls has given rise to shebeens and obviously such places overcrowding is the order of the day. We appeal for the Covid-19 task force to work closely with residents association structures so as to minimise the mushrooming of shebeens, ” said GWRT coordinator, Fidelis Chima.

Though Matabeleland North provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Glory Banda could not be reached for comment an official who requested anonymity confirmed the development arguing that the law would take its cause as there were no sacred cows.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 District taskforce has been carrying out awareness campaigns with support from stakeholders in an effort to promote compliance among residents.

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