BY VENERANDA LANGA
GOVERNMENT has criminalised failure to comply with local authority procedures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and will impose a one-year jail term to any person who will convene a gathering of over 50 people and refuses to disperse it after being ordered to do so.
This was gazetted in Statutory Instrument (SI) 77 of 2020, which is termed the Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) regulations 2020. Government has restricted gatherings to not more than 50 people. This was announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in his state of the nation address on Monday night.
The SI states that the legal instrument will authorise any local authority to evacuate, close, alter, or if deemed necessary, even demolish any premises considered likely to favour the spread of the coronavirus.
However, the SI also states that compensation may be paid in respect of any premises demolished or destroyed.
“Any person who disobeys or fails to comply with an order made in terms of subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 12 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year to both such fine and such imprisonment,” SI 77 of 2020 reads.
Section 3(a) and (b) of the SI reads: “Any person partaking at a gathering or convenor thereof (a) partakes in or convenes at a gathering knowing that such gathering is prohibited in terms of subsection (1); or (b) refuses to disperse from a gathering after being ordered to disperse in terms of subsection (2)(a) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 12 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or both such fine and such imprisonment.”
However, Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said while measures to contain the virus were necessary, they must not be repressive to the extent of threatening civil political rights and bolster authoritarian trends.