By Phephile Motau and Sifiso Nhlabatsi | 2020-12-21
THOSE who thought the police would be lenient on cracking down on people who break the amended COVID-19 restrictions learnt the hard way this past weekend.
Police used teargas and sjamboks to disperse people who had gathered in entertainment venues around the country since Friday.
On Friday, police were in Matsapha, where they shut down a place which had a number of revelers.
The police officers were carrying batons and sjamboks and were travelling in separate vehicles, including a minibus.
The police officers ensured that everyone left the area by midnight, and those who resisted or were found to be breaking the law were arrested.
The same occurred in Mbabane on Saturday where people had gathered in venues around the town were dispersed. The police used teargas to ensure that all the people left the areas and went home.
Meanwhile, there was chaos in the streets of Matsapha on Friday night when police exercised minimal force to disperse imbibers who were enjoying alcoholic beverages on the streets disregarding the COVID-19 regulations set by government.
Information gathered was that officers from Sigodvweni Police Station were making their routine patrols in areas around Matsapha, closing down bars and shebeens which were selling liquor way beyond the stipulated time-frame set by government.
Fun-lovers who were already on the festive spirit defied police instructions to leave the streets and go back to their houses; this resulted into a commotion between the police and those who were enjoying their alcoholic beverages on the streets.
Police started by telling everyone who had parked their vehicles to remove them from the roads. The fun-lovers pretended as if they were vacating the place but after noticing that the police had left the scene, came back and continued with their drinking spree.
Around midnight, the police came back to find the imbibers back at the same spot.
Police started assaulting everyone they found drinking on the streets, accusing them of failing to heed to instructions.
The drinking spree ended abruptly as everyone ran for safety with the police hot on their heels. The officers made it clear that they will continue to enforce the law throughout the festive season.
During the night, it was gathered that the officers ended a number of parties in Matsapha and surrounding areas.
This comes after the Deputy Prime Minister, Themba Masuku, introduced amendment of the COVID-19 Disaster Management Regulations. Amongst the new regulations was that alcohol consumption in gatherings of more than 20 people was prohibited. The DPM also prohibited gatherings after 8m, non-essential travelling between 11pm and 4am, banning festive season sports tournaments and night vigils and cross-over events or parties.
Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati confirmed that they had cracked down in a number of places and people who were breaking the regulations.
Vilakati said they had started their festive season operations, when the new regulations were announced.
She said they had intensified their operations because of the new normal hence they are flexible in implementing new changes as they occur.
Vilakati said what they noticed was that people were relaxed and it was like they were not aware of what is currently taking place. She said alcohol was being sold like everything was just normal and people were crowded. She said they shut the places down, and since some people were resisting closing the places in which people had gathered, they were forced to use minimal force to disperse the crowd and ensure that people comply with the regulations.
Vilakati stated that people would adjust to the newly introduced regulations as time goes by, as the regulations were with immediate effects.
“We will also try to intensify our public awareness programmes to ensure that people are aware of the changes that are expected,” Vilakati said.
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