Its business as usual in Bulawayo as banks that opened yesterday as well as shops, pharmacies and the market place with also a marked increase in vehicular traffic.
With the hive of activity, one could be forgiven to assume the lockdown period was over.
President Mnangagwa extended the lockdown on Sunday by two weeks to May 3 as Covid-19 cases are increasing.
As of Monday, 3 308 people had been tested for Covid-19 in the country with three recorded deaths and two recoveries from 25 positive cases recorded so far in the country.
In Bulawayo’s CBD yesterday, there were long queues at banks and supermarkets, with forex remittance outlets arguably having the longest queues.
At the markets, a lot of vendors came all out with their boxes to stock up on fruits and vegetables for resale, while a lot of ordinary people were buying fresh produce in bulk and sharing outside.
Police and the army had to be called to restore order at a Western Union and MoneyGram queue at EcoBank at the corner of Fife Street and 9th Avenue when hundreds of people were demanding their diaspora remittances from the bank.
Most Western Union branches and MoneyGram branches in the city were closed as they reportedly had no money.
Banks re-opened for business yesterday and there were winding queues at NMB, First Capital Bank, NBS, EcoBank and at CBZ.
At most queues people were not adhering to social distancing rules.
Most people in queues said they had walked into the city centre from various suburbs as there is no public transport open to non-ssential services staff.
At banks, clients said they had to stand in long queues as they needed the cash for day-to-day expenses as commodities were much cheaper when buying in cash as compared to using electronic transactions. Also, people avoid bank or electronic transaction charges when using cash.
For example, at Oceans Supermarket in the city, bread was going for $21 cash and $30 using other payment options which also attracts additional transaction charges.
“It’s better to just spend the whole day in the queue knowing that at the end of the day I will buy five items with cash than swiping for only three items at the shops. In Western areas, they charge you $120 for 2kg sugar when swiping but $80 if you are buying in cash. That is why we will just stand in the queue. We are happy that the banks have since opened. We have been suffering,” said Mr Thembani Ndlovu from Magwegwe North suburb.
People who queued for forex remittances said they were struggling to get their money as most branches were closed, with the few open ones reportedly offering “slow service”.
“We have been here since 7AM. We walked. We couldn’t be in the Zupco bus and the police made us leave our car at Athlone Avenue and continue on foot. They told us that they will close at 12PM, right now its way past 11AM and the queue is still not moving. We need the money because we need to eat,” said Mrs Nobuhle Matshazi from Sauerstown.
In a statement, Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said they had noted the high volumes of people trekking into the city yesterday and they were going to act.
He said they had arrested some people but could not immediately give the number of those arrested.
“While we understand that people need to restock on food supplies and some people have genuine business in town, we still want to limit the numbers and decongest the CBD. We will continue to work and our teams are still working at the roadblocks. The high numbers of people arrested are not necessarily a reflection that the people of Bulawayo are the rowdiest, but it is a reflection of the effectiveness of the police force in the province. We warn all those who continue to violate lockdown orders that they will be arrested as we shall leave no stone unturned,” he said.
Speaking during a donations handover ceremony at Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital yesterday, Bulawayo mayor Councillor Solomon Mguni said the public’s attitude on Covid-19 was worrying as there were many people still defying lockdown regulations, putting themselves, their families and the general public at risk.
The mayor said flattening the curve is a collective responsibility and it needs everyone to avert the spread of Covid 19.
“It is saddening to note that the issue of social distancing is still not being adhered to, especially in Bulawayo. Let us protect each other to save lives and practice social distancing. I also need to implore businesses operating this time to ensure that they do not expose people to Covid-19. While hand sanitisers and washing of hands is encouraged, may we also ensure that we discourage unnecessary loitering outside our premises,” he said.
During the same occasion, the assistant director of the Health Services Department Dr Khulamuzi Nyathi urged Bulawayo residents to observe lockdown regulations and stay at home as the movement of people spreads Covid-19.