By Standard Style Reporters
Scores of revellers across the country’s drinking holes and leisure centres are continuing with their usual social hangouts ignoring President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s directive against large gatherings as steps against the global spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).
A survey carried out by Standard Style across the country’s major towns on Friday night showed that it was business as usual for revellers as they danced their night away.
There was no police presence in places visited by this publication despite the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on Thursday having announced that they would enforce the President’s decree on big gatherings.
On Thursday the ZRP said it would ensure Mnangagwa’s decree of banning gatherings of more than 100 people was adhered to.
“The government’s ban of 100 or more people, be it at church, music, soccer and any other gatherings, should therefore be observed. “Police are conducting patrols, surveillance and checks to ensure compliance,” ZRP said in a statement.
While countries like South Africa who are battling to contain the deadly virus have put in place strict measures to curb its spread by ordering all bars, shebeens and some restaurants to close at 6pm, it seems in Zimbabwe, which by yesterday recorded its second case, there is nothing to write home about as far as social distancing is concerned. It’s business as usual.
Pleasure seekers in Harare were not even perturbed by Friday evening’s “breaking news” that Zimbabwe had recorded its first Covid-19 case, as they thronged their usual social hangout rendezvous.
It was business as usual at popular hangouts such as Zindoga in Waterfalls, Kebab Leisure Centre in Eastlea, Mereki in Warren Park, Chikwanha Gardens in Chitungwiza and the popular Mashwede Village along Willowvale Road.
In the city centre, it was a hive of activity as most outlets operated normally.
At most of these outlets there was no monitoring of the crowds and a handful of police officers were seen moving around seemingly not bothered by what was happening.
“We cannot just control the crowds because Fridays are the only days that we make money. How can I stop people from getting inside?” said a bouncer at a popular spot in Harare CBD.
In Beitbridge disc jockeys and beer outlets staff played music and served beer to soothe the revellers for as long as the night lasted risking exposure had there been some.
On a night after a hot Friday afternoon, revellers in Beitbridge drank the night away taking advantage of non-enforcement of the presidential decree by police.
“We will continue to serve as long as we have customers. The management has not said anything and it only means work as usual,” a barlady at a popular open-air and drive-in outlet in Beitbridge said.
Management of the bar was not available when sought for comment.
Soon after 10pm droves of party animals, ladies dressed in seductive summer gear, swarmed into that club as loud music pierced the night.
“Coronavirus or not, my day will come, but for me it’s work and I have to do it while I still can,” said a drunken lady of the night.
“It’s either I die of that disease or hunger. I have two children to look after and employment is hard to come by so I have no choice,” she said as she sipped a glass of beer and quickly waved away the interview.
Beitbridge has a large mixture of travellers some who opt to sleep in clubs to avoid hotel and accommodation costs.
“I want to collect my imported car tomorrow and I can no longer afford hotel accommodation so I have to hang around and it’s not out of choice,” a man from Kadoma said.
At another nightclub renowned for breaking all licence regulations operating round the clock, hundreds of ladies of the night milled around outside in the hunt for short commercial sex contracts.
Inside the bar hundreds of night life enthusiasts danced to disco music in the dimly lit set-up as scantily-dressed women strutted on the dance floor.
Outside the bar dozens of vendors selling alcohol from cooler boxes and unhygienically exposed food maintained their daily work disregarding a council directive in support of Mnangagwa’s order to close bars.
At around 3am yesterday when Standard Style left, hundreds of revellers were still dancing the night away with no police in sight.
The officer commanding Beitbridge police district Superintendent Tichaona Nyongo said police would be deployed to enforce the directive.
“Most people may have misunderstood the directive, but we will ensure it is followed. I will speak with the relevant officers to ensure compliance,” he said.
In Gweru, pubs were fully packed mostly with students from Midlands State University and Gweru Polytechnic who were having their last weekend in the city ahead of closure on Tuesday.
“It is difficult to limit people into a pub because some can turn violent. We are, however, trying to improve ventilation and talk to people so that they observe the social distance announced by authorities,” said DJ Croxcy, the entertainment manager for Club Excite.
At the Bowling Club and Gweru Sports Club, it was a hive of activity with youngsters clubbing like a normal day.
At Club Uptown, Standard Style observed that revellers were not practicing social distancing and they were surrounding pool tables in close contact as there seemed to be a tournament. Ladies of the night also went by their business of soliciting for transactional sex to revellers and it was a full house.
As the colleges close, the numbers of revellers at pubs are, however, expected to go down as the population in the city will dwindle coupled with the recent price hike of alcohol and beverages.
Standard Style on Friday established Bulawayo night spots’ recklessness and unpreparedness for the epidemic.
The Vintage Shisha Bar located in the city centre was oversubscribed, with revellers amounting to more than 100.
Crystal, Zarah Lounge and Club 263 where Standard Style visited on the night were jam-packed.
Law enforcement agents were not in sight.
Shisha smoking, which can be a probable source of coronavirus transmission, was the order of the day in clubs visited by Standard Style.
It was business as usual in Mutare on Friday night as revellers continued to party despite the risk of catching coronavirus. Popular night spots in Mutare such as Club Mandisa, Villa Spot and Soul City were fully packed when Standard Style visited around midnight.
However, this publication established that Villa Spot and Club Mandisa had put sanitisers at the entrances as well as in bathrooms.