Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE military has been roped in to complement police in enforcing the 21-day lockdown, a strategy that is being implemented by other countries throughout the world to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) had been enforcing the lockdown which has seen nearly 2 000 people being arrested countrywide for defying the stay-at-home order.
Police and soldiers are now jointly manning roadblocks and conducting patrols in suburbs to ensure that the public complies with the lockdown measures.
Defence and War Veterans Affairs Deputy Minister Victor Matemadanda said the deployment of the military was an operational issue which should be embraced as most countries have jointly deployed security forces for improved efficiency.
“At a personal level I don’t get involved in an operational matter. That is for the Joint Operations Command (JOC). But obviously when you see them working together like I have always said, they get involved at the request of the Zimbabwe Republic Police,” said Deputy Minister Matemadanda.
“But anyway, it’s not a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe, every other country that has taken (lockdown) measures has deployed the police and the army – all security agents to make sure that this is contained. If the deployment is being done now, I think Zimbabwe was even the last because everywhere else, soldiers are deployed because it is an emergency situation.”
To contain the virus, countries across the globe have implemented lockdowns and the military is playing a crucial part.
As part of lockdown enforcement measures, neighbouring South Africa on March 27 deployed both the army and police to ensure the public complies with the 21-day lockdown.
In Zimbabwe, the lockdown began last week on Monday and during this period people are required to stay at home, with only those providing essential services allowed to report for work. Only those providing essential services such as shops selling food and pharmacies are authorised to open. Travel between cities and provinces has been banned and within towns and cities, only Zupco buses provide public transport.
Movement of people and large gatherings are some of the fastest ways the virus is spread, hence the need for citizens to confine themselves at home.
A Chronicle news crew yesterday observed that at roadblocks both police and soldiers were present enforcing the order.
The news crew also came across police and soldiers in Emabuthweni suburb in Bulawayo, patrolling the area. Loitering residents scurried for cover as the police vehicle ferrying both cops and the military passed through the suburb.
It was also observed that although most people did not enter the central business district (CBD) yesterday, residents were milling around aimlessly in residential areas disregarding social distancing.
Some of the defiant people were seen in groups drinking alcohol.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said since last week on Monday they have arrested a total of 1 918 people for Covid-19 noncompliance.
He said the arrested included motorists who embarked on prohibited inter-city travel and business people who have continued to operate without exemption among others.
“Even those who are at home we have observed that they are converging in large gatherings, throwing parties that expose their families to the risk of contracting the virus. People are unnecessarily getting into central business districts across the city, be it in cars or even some of them on foot,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi said some unscrupulous bar operators were closing their doors as patrons drank beer in the premises to keep business open in violation of the lockdown.
He said police will continue conducting raids to ensure there is high compliance with lockdown orders.