TWO church leaders in Gwanda have been arrested for holding a church gathering without the necessary requirements such as sanitisers and a thermometer as part of measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Under the new regulations, church gatherings are required to take place not earlier than 8AM and not later than 3PM. Churches are also not supposed to exceed 50 congregants who should exercise personal hygiene and wear face masks.
Sanitisers and thermometers are required and a register of those attending must be kept and this is important in case of contact tracing.
Matabeleland South provincial police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele said the two leaders of a Johanne Masowe WeChishanu Sect in Gwanda Alexander Tawaoatsa and Newton Kahari were each fined $500 while members of their congregation were dispersed by the police.
“I can confirm that we arrested two members of the Johanne Masowe WeChishanu sect for failure to observe Covid-19 regulations. The sect conducted a service on Friday near the Old Gwanda Polytechnic site without the necessary requirements which include a thermometer, register and hand sanitisers among other things,” he said.
“The two leaders were arrested at around 2PM and they were each ordered to pay a $500 fine. The congregants who numbered about 25 were dispersed by the police. These two were arrested following a tip off from members of the public.”
Chief Insp Ndebele urged members of the public who come across people violating regulations to quickly alert the police as such culprits put the lives of entire communities at risk.
In Bulawayo, police have intensified public awareness campaigns.
Yesterday the law enforcement officers moved around the city centre in a convoy of cars, urging members of the public to comply with national lockdown regulations, including the need for churches to observe measures in place.
Police also warned members of the public against violating the 6pm to 6am curfew.
A Chronicle news crew observed that some shops, which had not closed by 3pm, immediately shut their doors upon seeing the police and military trucks.
Police spokesperson for Bulawayo Inspector Abednico Ncube said in terms of church gatherings, there should not be more than 50 people attending a service.
“We have stepped up our street campaign so that we conscientise members of the public and explain to them the new specific requirements for one to be allowed to pass through police checkpoints and roadblocks in line with the latest Covid-19 regulations,” he said.
“Churches should not be conducted before 8AM and services should also not go beyond 3PM. During church gathering, there should be proper social distancing and people should always wear face masks, be hand sanitised and have their temperatures checked.” he said.
Insp Ncube warned the public against breaching curfew hours, saying those caught on the wrong side of the law would be prosecuted.
In terms of new measures announced by Government, industry specific requirements for employees to be allowed to pass through police checkpoints and roadblocks are that they should possess letters from their superiors stating the place, days and times of reporting on and off duty.
For companies and organisations, people should have letters from the CEO or general manager stating the place, days and times of reporting on and off duty.
For Ministries/ Parastatals Headquarters and Provincial levels, people should have an exemption letter from directors and above, stating the duty, place, days and times of reporting.
Those operating food outlets should have certified photocopies of a shop licence and an exemption letter from the officer-in-charge of a local police station.
Private security services must have a uniform, company identity document and letter from management stating dates and time of reporting on and off duty.
For funerals, concerned relatives should produce a copy of the burial order.