The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
POLICE roadblocks, curfews and regulations requiring the closure of bars and other places of leisure have not stopped unscrupulous nightspot and shebeens from cashing on members of the public eager for a fun time out, as Covid-19 cases amongst people between the ages of 24 and 45, usually the most outgoing group, now count for more than half the city’s recorded positive cases.
According to statistics from the city’s health department, people aged 25 to 44 constitute over half of the cases recorded in the city, contributing to 54.4 percent of cases as of 4 August. The 25-34 age group contributing 29.4 percent of the cases, the most by any age group.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), infections among this age group have increased over the past five months. This week,
WHO pleaded with young people to stop partying as they were now responsible for the spread of the virus across the globe.
“We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: young people are not invincible,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“Young people can be infected; young people can die; and young people can transmit the virus to others. Authorities need to create the environments in which younger people can engage in safe behaviours,” he said. “But, equally, younger people also have to take on board that they have a responsibility on this, too.”
In an online discussion during the week, WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan said young people needed to introspect and decide if losing their lives was worth a mere party.
“Younger people also need to take on board that they have a responsibility. Ask yourself the question: do I really need to go to that party?”
Despite the grim reading presented by the citywide statistics, investigations by Sunday Life have revealed that despite requirements that nightspots close shop, most were still operating for most of the lockdown period. A visit to one bar in the Bulawayo Central Business District one recent evening, showed that it was business as usual in Bulawayo.
Located along Jason Moyo Street, a passerby would never know that the joint is a hive of activity from a glance. However, on close inspection, it has been one of the most happening nightspots in Bulawayo during the lockdown. Right of admission is strictly reserved, with bouncers manning the gate very selective of who they let inside the joint’s forbidding gates.
Once one has gone inside and past the cars parked in the carpark, patrons are welcomed by a full bar experience, with waitresses and bar-tenders ready to take orders from those seeking to quench their thirst. A VIP (very important people) section is reserved for the heavy spenders that do not want to mingle with “commoners”.
Certain joints in the city have been nocturnal, seemingly closed in the afternoon before transforming and bursting with life in the latter hours of the day. On the outside, the nightspots look deserted, but as day progresses into night, they come alive. One such place is a joint located in the Belmont area along Plumtree Road.
While a nearby butchery gives the impression of a lawful form of business, the cars that start buzzing around the place in the late hours indicate something far less innocent. A visit by Sunday Life before the pronouncement of the dusk to dawn curfew revealed a joint operating normally, with waitresses weaving through tables as they delivered buckets of beer to the thirsty imbibers.
In Paddonhurst, members of the neighbourhood watch committee reportedly clashed with patrons on Thursday at a local joint. According to residents who spoke to Sunday Life on condition of anonymity, the drinking spot has so far avoided scrutiny as it is a trusted watering hole for suspected law enforcement officers.
Near what used to be the Cold Storage Commission’s premises in Belmont, a popular joint has also risen, with most of its clientele made up of healthcare workers. When Sunday Life visited the joint recently, it was greeted with a hive of activity reminiscent of the days before the Covid-19 pandemic wrought havoc on the city’s nightlife. It is not clear who runs the joint, although rumours point to a local medical doctor, hence it is the preferred haunt for medical practitioners.
The nightlife has not been restricted to the Central Business District or the eastern half of the city. In Nkulumane 10 a shebeen called Sun City has taken the neighbourhood by storm, despite regular raids by police. The shebeen, located in a three roomed house near the Sekusile Shopping Centre, is rumoured to be owned by a member of the once notorious Star Force gang. The shebeen king has reportedly moved to a different abode as his house now serves exclusively as a shebeen.
“They get their alcohol stocks from a sports bar which has not been able to operate during the lockdown,” said a patron that spoke to Sunday Life anonymously. “Even when you buy using your EcoCash, the biller code that reflects is one that belongs to the sports bar.”
In Magwegwe West, a Covid-19 hotspot suburb in the city, there is popular joint a stone’s throw away from J W Mthimkhulu Primary School, which has reportedly also been opening its doors to patrons.
In Magwegwe North, places named after their owners, in typical shebeen fashion, are snapping up patrons that have been unable to visit their nightspots of choice because of lockdown restrictions. Places like koBeke or KoMaBrizza in the suburb have proven a hit with patrons, with many coming far and wide to sample their illegal delights.
Police have said they have arrested hundreds of people for drinking beer in public, shebeens and in bars, which is illegal under lockdown regulations.