No ban on church gatherings: Police

31 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
No ban on church  gatherings: Police easter2

The Sunday News

Bruce Ndlovu , Sunday News Reporter

WHILE entertainment hotspots in Bulawayo were buzzing this weekend as people enjoyed their Easter holidays, for members of some churches, the mood was dampened by fears of a cholera outbreak that has led to restrictions on large gatherings.

The mood was further blunted by the El-Nino induced drought which has seen fewer people travelling during what is usually a time of harvest in the country’s rural areas.

This year’s Easter holidays come as the southern African region is facing one its worst droughts as a result of El Nino weather patterns stirred by climate change.

Despite the harsh weather conditions, President Mnangagwa has assured the nation that no one will die from hunger and that his administration has put in place adequate measures to guarantee food for all communities.

In addition to the ongoing drought, Zimbabwe, which is among the best countries on the continent in beating back communicable diseases, is also grappling with a cholera outbreak which, as of last week, had claimed over 300 lives according to the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

Last week, Government said all gatherings including large church gatherings must comply with health guidelines to ensure the diminishing threat of cholera does not suddenly explode. As such, all gatherings needed to be supervised by health authorities, while the availability of adequate clean water and sanitation were also stipulated as mandatory requirements for those seeking approval.

Police yesterday said they have not banned church gatherings but urged churches to comply with health guidelines.

“The police have not banned or said churches should seek clearance to conduct their services,” he said.

“All what the Commissioner-General (Godwin Matanga) said was that church leaders should not allow their congregants to travel at night and make sure that they use suitable transport. “In view of the Cabinet directive, which was specifically from the Ministry of Health and Child Care regarding the health safety of congregants, the ZRP is ready to enforce the law and complement Government’s efforts in preventing cholera outbreaks.

“We urge churches to comply with these safety regulations given by Government, especially focusing on prevention of cholera outbreaks,” said ZRP spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi.

Over Easter, churches teem with congregants, with many taking the opportunity to visit special shrines while there are often large secular gatherings as well.

The effect of the measures taken by the Government were evident at Johane Masowe eChishanu in Selbourne, where there was no large gathering as has been the case in past years. A congregant who spoke to Sunday News on condition of anonymity said that this year the event would take place later next month, when they got all things clear.

“There are concerns because of the cholera issue and the directive that was given of course but prophecy had always said that people would gather in April and that is still what is going,” he said.

The same situation prevailed in most places of worship visited by Sunday News.

Meanwhile, at bars dotted around various townships, it was business as usual as people enjoyed the holidays with braai and drinks.

A visit to Renkini Long-Distance Bus Terminus revealed concerns over the ongoing drought, with fewer people travelling during this year’s Easter holidays.

Mr Tapiwa Rambanepasi, a long-distance bus driver, said that people were reluctant to travel as they thought they could put their money to better use by taking care of more urgent needs.

“When we compare last year to this year, I can say there’s a lower volume of traffic with people reluctant to travel to their rural areas. I think we saw much more money last year than we are doing now. I think something that has contributed to this is the current dry spell that we are experiencing. People would rather buy something like mealie-meal for their children rather than travel somewhere for Easter,” he said.

Mr Albion Maphosa, a headman from Nyumbane village in Matobo District, Matabeleland South, said people had shunned travelling this Easter, as they tightened their belts due to fears for the well-being of their livestock.

“I think we shall have a quiet Easter as you can see, because people don’t have a lot of money because of the drought. What is foremost in people’s mind right now is getting a few bags of mealie-meal for their families and that I think is the reason why a lot of them are not travelling up and down at this time of the year as they usually do.

“In the villages things are getting harder because of this drought. What we have noticed is that people are now queuing for water at the boreholes. People are now taking their cattle to drink at specific watering holes because a lot of places have run dry. While crops failed, I don’t think people are yet worried about food. What is really worrying us at the moment is our livestock,” he said.

A vendor who preferred to be called Mrs Mutero, said instead of people travelling from urban centres to the rural areas, they were witnessing a lot of travel in the opposite direction, which was not usually the case.

“What we are noticing is that there has been a reversal of what we usually come across during Easter. At this time of year, we usually have young children going to the rural areas to help with the harvest but this year it seems like it’s different. We have a lot of kids going in the opposite direction, as they are coming to urban areas in numbers,” he said.

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