POLICE in Bulawayo have arrested 12 people, including eight minors for attending an illegal party in Pumula South suburb.
The organiser of the “super-spreader” event, Future Sitoboli (23), left his guests at the mercy of the police as he slipped away when officers raided on Monday.
Police have launched a manhunt for Sitoboli.
Government banned mass gatherings in the face of escalating Covid-19 infections.
The arrested include Ester Mutema (28) from Nkulumane suburb, Akim Moyo (25) from Pumula South suburb, Caroline Moyo (20) from Pumula South suburb and Alfred Ngwenya (18).
The eight minors, seven of them girls cannot be named for ethical reasons but are aged between 14 and 17.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said police received a tip-off from the public leading to the arrest of the 12.
“We have arrested 12 lockdown violators including eight minors while one suspect who owns the house escaped and is being searched for by police. The accused hosted a party at a house in Pumula South in violation of the national lockdown regulations. When police raided the house where the party was being held, they observed that the participants were drinking alcohol, braaing while they played loud music. The investigating officers found opaque beer bottles, two empty Black Label quarts and six empty bottles of Castle pints,” said Insp Ncube.
He said the accused were arrested and taken to Pumula Police Station where they are being processed.
The police spokesperson commended the public for reporting lockdown violators. He said it would take concerted community effort to prevent the spread of the deadly pandemic that had killed 1 075 Zimbabweans as of Tuesday.
The virus has disrupted world economies and killed more than 2,1 million people since it broke out in China in December 2019.
Insp Ncube expressed concern that members of the public were still indulging in risky behaviour.
“As the police we would like to warn members of the public that it is illegal to host parties and other unsanctioned gatherings during this period of Covid-19 lockdown. We urge members of the public to adhere to the Government directive and follow stipulated Covid-19 regulations and not perpetuate the spread of the coronavirus due to reckless behaviours,” said Insp Ncube.
He said police will continue raiding and arresting lockdown violators.
Insp Ncube said children who attend illegal parties were exposed to abuse.
“There were children as young as 14 who were participating in this party. It is a serious concern to us as law enforcement agents when young children are involved in such risky behaviour, especially considering the threat posed by Covid-19. Some of these parties lead to the girl child being abused. As police we have attended to several cases where girls are raped during such illegal parties. So, we want to appeal to parents to pay close attention to the activities of children,” said Insp Ncube.
Experts have said the national lockdown has seen an increase in the number of unwanted pregnancies as teenagers get involved in risky sexual behaviour which also exposes them to sexually transmitted infections.
Meanwhile, 15 lockdown violators who allegedly hosted an illegal birthday party at a gold dealers house in Nkulumane suburb on Sunday appeared in court on Tuesday facing charges of violating lockdown regulations.
The who appeared before West Commonage magistrate Miss Tency Dube include the owners of the house Ntombizodwa Ndlovu and her husband. The accused persons, who were arrested on Sunday, were represented by Mr Byron Sengweni, were not asked to plead to the charges and were remanded out of custody to March 3 for trial at West Commonage Court.
Allegations are that the accused persons together with 15 others who are still at large violated the lockdown through hosting an illegal birthday party for Ndlovu.
Prosecuting, Ms Margarete Takawira said the accused persons were arrested on Sunday at around 5PM at a house in Nkulumane following a tip-off.
The court heard that the police sent a first group of nine police officers to go and arrest the accused persons but the accused persons turned violent and attacked them.
The police officers locked the gate using handcuffs and called for backup which came and helped in arresting accused persons.