Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
THE inevitable has happened, bars and places of leisure have been ordered by President Mnangagwa to close down in order to curb the spread of Covid-19 and they have started doing so.
Covid-19 claimed its first victim in the country, media personality Zororo Makamba on Monday morning who was the second person to have tested positive in the country.
In a declaration on Monday night, President Mnangagwa announced Government’s blanket ban on gatherings around recreational facilities such as night clubs, bars, beerhalls, movie houses, swimming pools, gymnasiums and sporting activities until further notice.
“With immediate effect, Government has put a blanket ban on gatherings around nightclubs, bars, beerhalls, movie houses, swimming pools, gymnasiums and sporting activities until further notice. . . Such tough measures have become necessary and unavoidable for our collective safety as a nation,” said President Mnangagwa.
Further, the Government also promulgated Statutory Instrument (SI) 77 of 2020 that provides for up to 12 months imprisonment for people who gather in crowds of more than 50 people, likely to promote the spread of Covid-19.
Following the announcement by the President, local bars have started serving notices to their patrons on the indefinite closure of their doors.
The Smokehouse, situated in the leafy suburb of Hillside confirmed its closure.
“To our valued customers. Sadly, we have closed our doors until the situation allows. We will come back stronger! Stay safe and we wish you all well in these trying times.”
Robert Mugabe Way which has most of the city’s nightclubs is now inactive as Zarah Lounge, Havanna, Cubanna and Pub Lagondola have shut down. Cosmopolitan and BAC Leisure have also been closed until further notice in light of the Government directive.
Ster-Kinekor, the city’s top movie house has also closed down.
“In light of the latest governmental guidance and as a sensible precaution, we (Ster-Kinekor Zimbabwe) will be shutting down operations with immediate effect. Communication as to when normalcy will be restored will be done via our social media platforms.
“We remain cognisant of the need to place the health and well-being of our patrons above all else. We hope and trust that you shall remain safe and take all prescribed precautions to remain healthy,” wrote Ster-Kinekor management.
Rejoice Mafukidze who runs three Shisha bars in Bulawayo, Marrakesh, Vintage Shisha and Backroom Shisha as well as Shisha Shaft and Level 21 in Zvishavane said they had decided to follow Government directives to safeguard public health interest by shutting down their outlets.
However, some spots in the CBD such as Red Café, Signature Bar, Skittle Inn and Good Fellas Pub along Herbert Chitepo and 14 Avenue were still operational as of yesterday, seemingly defying Government’s directive.
In high-density areas, it seems to be a different story as most sports bars and braai spots are still functional at a time the nation is uniting to fight coronavirus which has killed over 11 000 people worldwide.
Manwele Beer Garden in Mzilikazi and MaDlodlo in Makokoba although operational, had scaled down as people were only allowed to buy their opaque beer and take it home. They were not allowed to sit in the beer halls.
Management at these spots said they were forced to open as they wanted to try and clear the opaque beer they had stocked up.
“We order 10 000 litres of opaque beer per week so it’ll rot and we’ll run serious losses which we won’t be able to recover from. This is why we decided to open and allow people to buy and go drink at home as we don’t want them to gather here,” said workers from the beerhalls.
A visit to Mpopoma last night showed that Esibayeni was open with people braaing. Some bottle stores such as Ndazi and Mhunga Bar were open also with people drinking.
Proprietor of Esiqongweni Tavern in Lobengula West, Philani Ndlovu said they were in full support of Government’s directive and have shutdown. He, however, requested Government to allow them to sell alcohol to those who want to buy and go drink at home especially considering that movements beyond homes have also been restricted meaning gatherings with friends are no longer allowed as well.
“It’s the right move (closing shop) given what we’re facing. All that being said, the government should allow us to sell alcohol and not to impose a blanket ban. As this will lead to people going against the directive to look for alcohol thereby putting everyone at risk,” said Ndlovu.
Naturally, most humans are social beings and social distancing will prove a problem for many people. With the closure of bars, this will mean that they will turn to other alternatives such as patronising shebeens. Authorities should thus be vigilant in trying to monitor such areas as people will resort to having a drink at homes.
Since schools closed yesterday, there is also need for close monitoring on teenagers as some unscrupulous ones will likely organise Vuzu Parties.