Zimbabweans defy lockdown

An army truck is seen on the streets of Harare, Thursday, July, 30, 2020. Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, was deserted Thursday, as security agents vigorously enforced the country's lockdown ahead of anti government protests planned for Friday. Police and soldiers manned checkpoints and ordered hundreds of people seeking to get into the city for work and other chores to return home.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
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HARARE – More people and vehicles are flouting Covid-19 lockdown rules as evidenced by a flurry of movements in residential areas and the Harare central business district.

Manufacturers who went into their annual shut down over Christmas and New Year are now also starting to open.

Harare’s town planning has also seen a jump in city centre transit traffic, with a lot of people who are allowed to work on one side of the city have to pass through the centre to get home to the other side.

This traffic is seen largely in the early morning and late afternoon, when the smaller numbers permitted to work in town have already managed to go home and even the permitted businesses are closed.

Generally the legally permitted shops, mainly supermarkets, food shops and pharmacies, are closing at 3pm, although it might take a bit longer for the last customer and staff to go out.

But with almost all pirate kombis and most mushikashika still not operating, at least on city centre routes, and some Zupco kombi services apparently curtailed because of lack of passengers for these more high-priced fares, the Zupco fleet appears to be managing, implying that numbers coming into the city centre are well below half the normal seen under level two, which permitted shops to open.

And the early closing sees streets largely deserted soon after 5pm.

Police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the noticeable increase in volumes of people into Harare’s central business district was a result of people in sectors permitted to operate getting exemption letters from the relevant ministry.

“The volumes of vehicles and people who are getting into town are necessitated by the various Government ministries who are issuing exemption letters. We want to verify with the various ministries over the authenticity of the exemption letters. We want to verify the people that have been exempted for work as we seek to minimise the movement of people who are getting into town every day,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.

Drivers going through checkpoints now hold up their letters as they approach, and tend to get waved through especially if they are not carrying passengers or have only one passenger, and thus are unlikely to be mushikashika. Most buses are still stopped with passengers being checked, but almost no one is left behind since everyone has documentation, as Asst Comm Nyathi has noted.

A few vehicles were turned away at the Delport checkpoint, along Seke Road, which in the past has had a greater proportion of people not permitted to drive into town taking a chance.

As industries closed and workers started their journeys home, often requiring multiple routes, there was from 4pm serious congestion at the Coke Corner, but since no businesses were open along that road or in the city centre at that time, almost everyone in the traffic jam must have been on their way home.

In central Harare, some vendors were back in numbers as are some of the money changers. Some streets and avenues that normally have packed pavements are almost bare, with the vendors tending to operate along the roads that connect the main terminuses, suggesting they are trying to attract those who need two buses to get to and from work, or near a concentration of permitted operations.

With Harare City Council not collecting parking fees, those in permitted operations are now using the free parking rather than paying to enter parkades.

In the Magaba area in Mbare, there is growing business, with traders selling behind the back-door. At Magaba Complex in Mbare, it was business as usual with people selling their wares.

Some touts were soliciting for buyers to purchase wares and they were not wearing face masks and some tuckshops were open.

Mbare Musika, which is legally operating, was also a hive of activity as people were buying vegetables and fruits.

In Masvingo, police continued to maintain a heavy presence on a major roads leading into the central business district and along major highways.

Intercity and international road traffic, outside cargo operations, is once again barred unless there is some essential pre-approved need.

Police in Masvingo, from experience gained, have also sealed undesignated routes that were being used by some motorists and residents to evade roadblocks.

The level of traffic and number of people in the CBD remained very low with only essential service providers such as supermarkets, pharmacies and fuel service stations opening from 8am-3pm. Masvingo police spokesperson Inspector Kudakwashe Dhewa said police remained on the ground.

In Beitbridge, most shops selling essential goods are closing at 3pm as per the lockdown regulations. Very few people, mainly customs clearing agents and truck drivers, who are allowed to operate normally, were observed in the CBD where most of the office complexes are located.

In the high density suburbs, police have continued to maintain a presence.

The local authority has also allowed a few informal traders, mostly those selling farm produce to operate between 8am and 11am under the watchful eyes of municipality police.

Vehicles heading to Chinhoyi central business district were being thoroughly checked at three main checkpoints with those not meeting lockdown regulations being turned away.

Although activity was relatively high in the CBD, security personnel maintained order by conducting routine checks while those not properly putting on face masks were arrested or being cautioned. Mashonaland West provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Margaret Chitove confirmed the arrests, but referred further questions to Asst Comm Nyathi.

But, as has happened before, illegal money changers, touts and pirate taxi operators were managing to get through checks and were playing cat and mouse with the security personnel.

There was low human traffic in Gweru with police patrolling and grocers were told to close just before the 3pm.

In Kariba, there has been concern over reports of people continuing to organise boozers matches at Chaminuka Stadium and other open spaces.

Adults and children are continuing to loiter in contravention of lockdown regulations.

TM supermarket has organised remote grocery purchases where people order and pay from home with a taxi or runner picking up orders. – Herald