Police working without PPE, allowances: Matanga

Rule of law

POLICE Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga yesterday disclosed that his subordinates were at high risk of contracting COVID-19 as they did not have personal protective equipment (PPE).


Matanga said this before the Health and Child Care Parliamentary Portfolio Committee where he appeared together with Home Affairs secretary Tonderai Nhepera and Health ministry acting secretary Gibson Mhlanga.

The two were grilled on measures to safeguard people at quarantine centres against COVID-19.

The police boss said that his juniors were not getting risk allowances.

He said the police did not get any assistance for personal protective equipment despite the donations to the country.

Matanga also threatened to arrest some “unauthorised” councillors for issuing exemption letters to enable residents to travel into the city centres.

“I am looking at situations where an ordinary person goes into town to fend for their families without a letter of authority — and if my officers allow people to just get in to do anything we will have a serious problem,” Matanga said.

“I have evidence that some sitting councillors are authorising people to go into the CBD and yet those councillors have no right to do so, and by the end of this week, I want to lock down two or three councillors to prove a point,” he said.

Matanga said no police officer had been infected by COVID-19 despite that some had collapsed at charge office but tested negative for the deadly virus.

The police commissioner said, in discharging their duties, they observed all COVID-19 regulations but added it was difficult to maintain social distancing when dealing with criminal elements without risking their escape.

MDC Alliance vice-president Lynette Karenyi-Kore then asked Matanga to explain why the ZRP deployed more than 50 police officers during the takeover of Harvest House by the Thokozani Khupe MDC-T faction.

She said the huge number of police officers was against lockdown regulations, but arrested MDC Alliance leaders for breaking the same regulations.

“As ZRP, we are not allowed to interpret the law. We enforce the law,” Matanga said without clarifying whether or not the Khupe faction had a court order.

“There are also people with their own agendas who want to take advantage of these operations during lockdown. While the nation is looking at COVID-19 issues, there are also certain elements who want to do certain things.”

He said 100 police officers who were deployed at quarantine centres were living under difficult circumstances.

Nhepera said since the inception of the lockdown, 38 648 people were arrested for breaking the rules with 4 959 arrested last week, while those arrested for breaking COVID-19 regulations at airports and informal sector numbered 3 125.

He said 173 absconded quarantine, and of those 95 were from Matabeleland South, 31 from Matabeleland North, 18 from Midlands and 12 from Bulawayo.

MPs quizzed Mhlanga over the low number of people tested in the country compared to other countries in the region.

“We currently have 59 000 test kits in the country and every month we should test 30 000 people.

We expect an additional 29 000 test kit donation and government has availed US$5,6 million and we will procure 90 000 test kits and other necessities through NatPharm,” Mhlanga said.

He said South Africa had tested 4,5 per 1 000 persons, India 0,7 per 1 000, Iceland 148 per 1 000, and Zimbabwe has tested 3,4 per 1 000 persons which means that there was no difference with South Africa.

MPs also said conditions at quarantine centres should be improved including the quality of food and human rights issues.