The Sunday News
Bongani Ndlovu, Sunday Life Correspondent
IN the past, New Year’s Eve in Bulawayo’s city centre would have been filled with revellers and party goers as they wait with abated breath, pomp and fanfare to welcome the new year.
Not this year. The Central Business District (CBD) resembled a ghost town as many of the city’s drinking spots were closed, some as early as 5PM on New Year’s Eve.
Others on 30 December, 2020 were told by police that if they find patrons in their establishments after 8PM, they would arrest everyone there. Be it the staff, management and even the patrons, the whole lot were going to be arrested and taken to various police stations around the city. So, in order not to tempt fate, some closed down early.
This is because the country is under lockdown, there is a curfew (10PM to 6AM), to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Partying and revelry, which by their nature attract crowds, are not advised because these provide the perfect conditions for the spread of Covid-19.
So far Zimbabwe has recorded 14 084 cases with 369 deaths from Covid-19, showing how grave the situation is in the country with Bulawayo recording 97 deaths so far.
Despite these figures on New Year’s Eve, there were some who threw caution to the wind and hosted house parties, some nightspots operated illegally and were teeming with revellers.
In the city centre it looked like the citizens had adhered to the lockdown and curfew regulations, but just a drive outside the city centre told a different story.
Well known nightspots had party goers counting down the end of 2020 and they were letting them in and inside venues, it was packed with people, singing at the top of their voices and dancing like there was no tomorrow, to the latest hits.
It seems that some were letting loose, perhaps saying goodbye to 2020 which was hard for many and thinking that 2021 will be different and better.
As such, police were out in full force deployed all over the city and they made 535 arrests of people violating lockdown regulations such as public drinking.
Other crimes such as robberies and rape cases they were investigating, the suspects were caught and are waiting for their day in court, according to Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Abednico Ncube.
“The behaviour of people of Bulawayo wasn’t that bad, as police were deployed in full force around the province. There were people who violated the lockdown regulations such as public drinking and the like. These people ushered in the New Year in police cells. They made up part of the 535 people who were arrested in Bulawayo,” said Insp Ncube.
“Some of the people arrested were wanted criminals who had committed murders and rapes, following tip-offs from members of the public we caught them.”
He was, however, concerned that there were some people who violated lockdown regulations which gave criminals an opportunity to commit crimes.
“When people go out at night and start violating lockdown regulations this gives criminals opportune time for them to pounce. There is a case in Mahatshula North in Bulawayo where a young woman aged 19 was raped at around 1am on 1 January. They were at a house party celebrating the New Year, way after curfew. There are also cases or muggings and the like that happened to people after curfew,” he said.
Insp Ncube said the rapist is still at large.
“It is alleged that the woman and man named Melusi agreed to have some fun time together and the man took her to an incomplete house. When they entered the house, the man acted as if he was looking for money, but produced a knife-like object and threatened the victim and raped her once without protection.
He then proceeded to try and stab her, but she managed to escape and seek help from the neighbours. The man is still at large,” said Insp Ncube.
As there were some establishments in Bulawayo that were open and had cars parked outside them, loud music being played, asked what they would do, Insp Ncube said: “We couldn’t be everywhere, but if evidence is brought forward that these were violating regulations, we would approach the authorities and question them.
We have at the end of the day managed to address the anomalies that took place. The purpose of our campaign was for everyone to adhere to the regulations.”
What is true is that there are some who could not resist the urge to go out on 31 December, although there was the danger of contracting the deadly Covid-19.
They disregarded the dangers that being in crowded places, with no masks on, drinking and partying could pose to their health and of others.
With the second wave and a new strain of Covid-19 settling in, if people do not take heed to social distancing and being away from such gatherings, 2021 will be a tearful year.