House parties in Zimbabwe undo containment efforts

29 March 2020 - 00:00 By LENIN NDEBELE
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a blanket ban on gatherings in facilities such as nightclubs, bars, beer halls, movie houses, gyms, swimming pools and sporting activities until further notice.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a blanket ban on gatherings in facilities such as nightclubs, bars, beer halls, movie houses, gyms, swimming pools and sporting activities until further notice.
Image: JEKESAI NJIKIZANA / AFP

Nightclubs and pubs were shut down at the beginning of the week, but house parties have since emerged, undoing the government's plans to contain Covid-19.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a blanket ban on gatherings in facilities such as nightclubs, bars, beer halls, movie houses, gyms, swimming pools and sporting activities until further notice for "our collective safety as a nation".

He further banned gatherings of more than 50 people.

"It's just a group of friends coming together in difficult times," said a Bulawayo man with a home bar that can accommodate 30.

He said many similar gatherings are being planned for weekends to come.

Unlike in SA, where the sale of alcohol and cigarettes has been outlawed, in Zimbabwe this is not restricted. Liquor stores have not been shut down. Instead, many have come up with "dial-a-delivery" plans for after-hours sales.

Under normal circumstances liquor stores close their doors at 8pm, but with the new laws banning public gatherings, informal and formal liquor shops have been trading late into the night.

"I get my stock from South Africa and the last consignment managed to beat the border closure deadline, but I don't see it lasting up to next week. Business has peaked because people have nothing to do at home. It's bad for people who go to pubs occasionally; when they are at home they drink more," said an informal supplier.

Nightclub owner Bigboy Phiri said he feared that by the time the blanket ban was lifted, people would have adjusted to the new way of passing the time."

People will lose interest in nightclubs over time because they will be used to partying at home. We will have a challenge when we reopen because we will have to go out of our way to lure customers," he said.

Health experts are fearful of the behaviour of young adults.

"The Covid-19 fatality recorded was of a 30-year-old man who had been to a nightclub, where he interacted with numerous people," said Dr Michael Moyo, a general physician.

"After tests were done, one of those who came into contact with him also tested positive. In videos posted on social media the deceased was seen smoking a hookah [a multi-stemmed pipe-like device for vaping and smoking]. That thing is shared by a group of people simultaneously and it's bad because it aids Covid-19 spread."

MP for Norton Themba Mliswa has called on Mnangagwa to put in place a total lockdown that will stop all nonessential activities and put a stop to social habits that have sprung up to thwart Covid-19 regulations.


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