We are treated like criminals: Residents speak on police enforcement of Covid-19 restrictions

Bulawayo residents have lashed out at the police for what they say is inhumane treatment when they are arrested for violating Covid-19 regulations.

The police have been picking up people who do not adhere to Covid-19 regulations especially the proper wearing of face masks, especially in the city centre.

Wearing a face mask in public is mandatory in Zimbabwe and the police have the power to arrest those who violate this measure.

Over 1,5 million people have been arrested since March 2020.

On Thursday, a CITE news crew visited Drill Hall where scores of people who had been rounded up by the police were being detained and made to pay a fine of ZWL$1000.

Some of the people who spoke to this publication said they were arrested just after disembarking from the public transport.

“I was arrested just after I had dropped off from a commuter omnibus at Hyper and I was force marched to Drill Hall and I was made to pay a fine,” said one resident.

The residents lamented that they are treated like real criminals as they are handcuffed and made to walk to the police station.

“The way we are treated is inhumane, we are handcuffed like hardcore criminals simply because of a mask,” said another resident, Isaac Ndiweni.

Human rights lawyer Nqobani Sithole said while it is law that people have to wear masks in public places, the use of force by the police is unwarranted.

“We have realised that what the police officers will do, they will go to places where there are buses, as people disembark from the bus they will arresting and handcuffing them as if they are real criminals, as if they are murderers, walk them to drill hall where they are made to pay a fine ZWL$1 000 or US$5,” he said.

Sithole said it was high time that Covid-18 regulations were relaxed further as the number of infections has gone down and life is slowly going back to normal.

Sithole said it is more of an arrest in the technical sense than the mischief behind it.

Bulawayo Police Spokesperson, Inspector Abednico Ncube said there are different circumstances leading one to be handcuffed.

“The law stipulates that when someone is arrested and he or she accepts arrest and cooperates there is no need to handcuff that person. Handcuffs are only meant to enable the person who is resisting to appear before the law. To handcuff someone is a second stage arrest,” said Inspector Ncube.

“If that person submits then they are not handcuffed but taken but those that are handcuffed for any case of criminal offense it would be seen by the police that this person is a flight risk, they can run away or they have resisted, those that are not resisting  they just go without being handcuffed.”

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