Police in Zimbabwe have arrested more than 26,000 people over the past two months for violating lockdown restrictions imposed in response to the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, police revealed this week.
The figures were announced in a statement from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on Monday where they urged members of the public to continue abiding by lockdown and social distancing measures. They are also arresting and fining individuals caught in public without wearing a mask.
“A total of 26,398 people have so far been arrested for violating the national lockdown regulations mainly for unnecessary movements,” the statement read. “We urge the public to stay at home, save for those who have been exempted to provide essential services like medical, mining, and retail sectors.”
They added that there are many people are ignoring regulations and going about their lives and activities as normal.
“There are still those who are conducting businesses without exemptions,” they continued. “Some are still engaging in unsanctioned gatherings which include conducting church services, parties, and drinking beer during the night. Some are still operating shebeens.”
Under the current rules, Zimbabweans are only allowed to go out for groceries or other essential activities within a five-kilometer radius of their home.
“Replenishing of supplies should be done at the nearest shops or within a five-kilometer radius and gathering for the purpose of consuming alcohol at shopping or private residents is illegal,” the ZRP added. “The police will arrest all those who violate the law.”
Police in Zimbabwe are notoriously corrupt. Last month, local media reported that officers were soliciting bribes at coronavirus checkpoints, regardless of whether people were following the necessary regulations.
Given the extreme poverty across the once-prosperous African nation caused almost entirely by the late socialist dictator Robert Mugabe and his successor Emerson Mnangagwa, it is of little surprise that people are not abiding by the lockdown measures.
With most Zimbabweans living day to day, the new rules have made it almost impossible for millions of workers to maintain a steady income. As a result, many people are facing extreme hunger and plummeting living conditions in a country already infamous for widespread food shortages and poor standards of living.
Zimbabwe is one of many African nations to have close links with China, with the two countries sharing the same “anti-imperialist” vision of general hostility to the West. However, many Zimbabwean people have expressed suspicion of the several coronavirus aid packages sent by Beijing in an attempt to reduce the global backlash against the Chinese Communist Party.
Poor countries around the world are all struggling under the pressure of the effective closure of their economies. Over recent weeks, the United Nations has warned that the economic devastation caused by lockdown measures may kill more people than the disease itself.
“Lockdowns and economic recession are expected to lead to a major loss of income among the working poor,” David Beasley, the executive director of the U.N.’s World Food Program, said in a briefing last month.
“In a worst-case scenario, we could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries, and in fact, in ten of these countries, we already have more than one million people per country who are on the verge of starvation. In many places, human suffering is the heavy price of conflict,” he continued.