Zimbabwe jails three music promoters over Covid-19 'superspreader event'

Harare

Largely deserted city of Harare on January 5, 2021. Zimbabwe government imposed a 30-day lockdown to curb the spread of a second wave of Covid-19.

Photo credit: Jekesai Njikizana | AFP

A Zimbabwean court on Tuesday jailed three popular music promoters for six months each for hosting a Covid-19 'superspreader' event that was attended by thousands of people on New Year's eve.

The trio's arrest coincided with a huge jump in Covid-19 cases with the country recording the highest daily infections of 1, 365 on January 5.

Thirty four people also died on the same day, the highest number since the first Covid-19 death was recorded in Zimbabwe in March last year.

Tinashe Chinachimwe, Arnold Kamudyariwa and Tafadzwa Kadzimwe organised the all night music concert at the heart of  Harare's most populous suburb of Mbare.

Prosecutor Michael Reza accused the trio of attempting to murder thousands of people through their reckless actions.

"The three circulated a banner on social media headed 'Thursday December 31, 6pm to 6am,"

"They overlooked the curfew and invited over 22 artists to perform," Mr Reza said.

"A message must be sent to all that you don't  risk people's lives in this manner.

"What they did is akin to attempted murder,  the seriousness of their offence must be reflected in the sentence."

Harare magistrate Vongai Guwuriro initially  sentenced the three to a year in jail each  for violating Covid-19 regulations before reducing their sentences by half of  condition of good behaviour.

Four police officers stationed close to venue of the event have since been suspended on charges of negligence.

This week  Zimbabwe reimposed a strict lockdown to slow down the spread of the coronavirus after Covid-19 cases more  than doubled in the last two months to 17 194 as of January 5.

A group of doctors, however, warned on Tuesday that the new lockdown restrictions did not go far enough to halt the spread of the virus.

"The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) is of the position that the current lockdown measures announced by government though welcome, may not provide the much needed impact in breaking the Covid-19 curve," ZADHR said.

The doctors said as long as the measures did not specifically target hotspots such as the capital Harare and the second city of Bulawayo, it would be difficult to bring the cases down.

"ZADHR also laments the continued influx of travelers when the country is faced with an existential threat of new strains of Covid-19 from South Africa and the United Kingdom,"the doctors said.

"The response by the government since the onset of the pandemic has been mostly reactionary and devoid of proper planning that responds to the existing risk levels."

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the new lockdown was "the final push to defeat this virus for good."

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