By Tinashe Mungazi
Despite a police ban on New Year festivities that involve gatherings, people in rural communities of Matabeleland North converged in their numbers at different shopping centers and growth points exposing themselves to Covid-19.
This comes as the country is grappling with a second wave of the pandemic with 14084 cases, 13183 recoveries and 369 deaths recorded so far nationally.
Following a ban on festivities police also revoked permission which had been granted to churches intending to hold cross over gatherings into the New Year.
Law enforcement agents argued that the gatherings would attract crowds making them illegal according to Covid-19 regulations meant to curb spread of the spread of the global pandemic.
In a statement, National Police Spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said: “As the country joins the rest of the world in celebrating the New Year’s eve on the night of 31st December 2020, the ZRP cautions the public against holding of unsanctioned parties, use of fire crackers, skidding of vehicles, beating and overturning of bins and drums in residential, business and other areas as a way of celebrating the New Year’s eve. Members of the public are warned that the country is still under lockdown and all regulations put in place by the government for health, safety and security are still in force. No all-night prayers, music galas or concerts are allowed. Bars, beer halls and night club owners should take note that they are yet to be allowed to operate.”
However, a snap survey by CITE in Lupane, Binga and Hwange districts revealed that it was business as usual as hundreds of people mostly teenagers converged on different shopping centres.
The warning seemed to have been ignored or fallen on deaf ears as bar owners defied the ban and kept their shops open selling alcohol to the swelling number of revelers.
It was observed that celebrations in the rural communities took place on New Year’s Day into the next day.
Traditionally, crossover celebrations are conducted to mark the end of the year and welcome the New Year.
While some are done through church gatherings others are held as parties at night clubs, family level and other such places where people gather to enjoy food, drink and dance as they celebrate the end and welcome the New Year.
Most of these rendezvous run into the night ending way after midnight.
People who spoke to CITE seemed ignorant of the dangers lurking in the shadows of gatherings which exposed them to contracting and spreading the virus.
“We are just here to celebrate the New Year as is the tradition. Yes, we have heard of Covid-19 but I’m sure we are safe out here as this disease is rife in urban areas,” said one David Muleya who was reveling at Mswazi business centre in Lusulu, Binga.
A bar owner in Jotsholo, Lupane district, said he had decided to stay open to maximize on losses incurred during the national lockdown that suspended their operations for months.
“Covid-19 really hit us hard as bar operators during the lockdown as we were closed for months. Not much was done by the government in terms of sustaining or cushioning us against the economic effects seeing that we were not operating. So this is our chance to try and make up for that since the regulations were relaxed to allow us to operate, ” he said.