Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
People huddled in groups, chatting and drinking without loud music are scenes that characterised shebeens in the high-density areas of Bulawayo last weekend.
Following the ban on public gatherings and leisure spots due to Government’s measures of stemming the spread of Covid-19 last week, bars in the city closed down leaving fun lovers stranded and even more hungry for entertainment activities.
Since some people have become so used to going out, they resorted to other forms of entertainment, especially in their neighbourhoods.
Chronicle Showbiz on Saturday night visited Bulawayo’s high-density suburbs and discovered that people’s drinking habits have not changed much, although they have seemingly adapted to the situation.
Shebeens in Mzilikazi, Makokoba, Iminyela, Entumbane, Magwegwe North and Luveve were fully operational as well as some braai joints, going against Government’s directive.
The establishments were selling alcohol and it was brisk business for them.
The Chronicle Showbiz crew visited one shebeen, koSafana in Mzilikazi, just metres from the Barbourfields Police station and witnessed patrons imbibing. Some who were parked outside had their drinks there.
However, shebeen owners were very careful as to who they let into the place as they turned away ‘walk ins’, only allowing those they call regulars. The regulars were huddled in groups, discussing what will happen during the lockdown and what they will do thereafter. In all this, there was no music, just the droning voices of people in different fiery debates.
The news crew left koSafana and moved to Mpopoma in search of other shebeens, only to be greeted by open bars and braai spots. Popular braai joint, Sibayeni’s gate was wide open and cars were let in freely. There was also a group of men playing snooker and from the look of things, the game was heated.
Just next door, Ndazi Bottle Store was in full swing as inebriated patrons were guzzling and bopping outside, while the same was happening inside.
It was a party and it seemed that there was no thought of the imminent danger they were in as social gatherings have been found to spread Covid-19 in the event that there are infected people.
Up the road from Ndazi Bottle Store other bottle stores and shebeens were also in operation. It was apparent that while the city centre was asleep, the suburbs were wide awake and buzzing.
In Mabuthweni, the shopping centre was a hive of activity as people went about their drinking business. In interviews, it was clear the people knew the dangers of Covid-19, but could not be bothered as they did not want their lives to come to a standstill.
At Emazengeni in Magwegwe North the shebeen seemed to be winding down their operations when Chronicle Showbiz arrived. But upon closer observation, they had adopted the same strategy as the other shebeens. Emazengeni (named after the tin roof structure of the place) were only letting in their regular customers with those who wanted to buy alcohol huddled outside the gate being served their favourite beverages.
Young men and women comprised the majority of those standing outside begging whoever was inside to sell them the alcohol.
Along Plumtree Road, it was business as usual at West Acre as well as Mazinyane with people braaing and being merry.
The last part of the journey was to canvas the Luveve and Gwabalanda area. KoChigumira braai spot was as like any other Saturday as cars were parked outside with the occupants not having a care in the world. Although the braai spot had closed, perhaps thirty minutes before the crew arrived, patrons were still in the mood of partying although without the lure of going to the city centre for more of it.
All in all, some people are finding ways of circumventing the system despite the risk posed by Covid-19 whose cases had risen to over 680 000 cases and over 30 000 deaths worldwide by yesterday afternoon.
In Zimbabwe, seven cases had been recorded by yesterday with one death.
Government may want to monitor bottle stores, shebeens and braai spots more closely in order to ensure that people do not spread the disease through patronising these spots.
Today, the nation begins its 21 days lockdown with people being ordered to stay at home and only leave when it is necessary like when seeking medical attention or going to the supermarket.