THE Joint Operations Command (Joc) pressured President Emmerson Mnangagwa to extend the current month-long Covid-19 lockdown after Zimbabwe recorded a frightening surge in cases of the respiratory ailment and the recent deaths of four ministers, although business leaders wanted the measures relaxed to protect struggling entities, The NewsHawks has learnt.
Zimbabwe this week recorded its highest daily tally for Covid-19 related deaths when 70 succumbed to the disease. More than 1 000 people have now died of Covid-19 since the disease was reported in March last year.
Acting President Constantino Chiwenga has extended the lockdown to 15 February 2021.
Joc, which comprises the military, Central Intelligence Organisation, the police and prison service, meets weekly from district to national level, deliberating on key national security issues.
Informed sources told The NewsHawks that Joc members expressed concern over the increase in fatalities and the weak enforcement of the lockdown.
Unlike the first lockdown that was mainly enforced by the army, policy and in some cases municipal police, the current restrictions are being largely enforced by police while the military is visible only at strategic points.
“A recent Joc meeting proposed that the current lockdown be extended by another month. Other security organs urged the police to scale up its enforcement especially after the curfew.
“It was also noted that some car sales were now operating illegal liquor outlets, and this has to be stopped,” a source familiar with the deliberations said.
Following the Joc meeting in which other security departments raised the red flag over the current enforcement protocols in the country’s major cities and towns, the Zimbabwe Republic Police this week ordered police stations to tighten the screws.
The police, according to a circular seen by The NewsHawks, noted that some companies which are not in the category of essential service such as Bata Shoe Company, Bhola Hardware, furniture and clothing shops, are conducting business on the strength of letters issued by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and International Trade.
“It has been noted that some individuals and businesses are now operating in violation of Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021 which barred all non-essential service providers to operate during the current Level (IV) of National Lockdown,” wrote the officer commanding police in Harare province.
“No vehicles should be allowed to pass a checkpoint if they are not in the category of essential services. Such vehicles should be arrested or made to go back where they will be coming from…
“Screening of deserving travellers during curfew times should be intensified, allowing passage only to those providing essential services such as those in the sectors of health including pharmacies, security services, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, energy [ZESA], fuel industry and other related entities.”
The Employers’ Confedaration of Zimbabwe (Emcoz), which represents formal business organisations, last week appealed to the government to review working hours to save businesses and to escalate the national Covid-19 response.
“In order to improve on productivity, we humbly request for a review of business operating hours (opening 7am and closing 4pm for manufacturing, 8am to 5pm for supermarkets and other retail outlets) to reduce overcrowding and curfew hours to run from 7pm to 5am to allow movement of those in essential services to travel from home to work and back ahead of curfew hours,” Emcoz wrote to the authorities.
President Mnangagwa, who briefly returned from his annual leave to make an announcement following a sharp rise in cases and deaths of his ministers — Ellen Gwaradzimba, Sibusiso Moyo and Joel Biggie Matiza — last week said further announcements will soon be made.
“More substantive announcements will be made in the coming days. In the meantime, let us continue to behave responsibly, and even raise our collective vigilance for our own safety and that of those dear and close to us, Mnangagwa said.