HARARE – Police were called on Monday to prevent 65 Zimbabweans who returned from the United Kingdom from storming out of a coronavirus quarantine facility with no running water in Harare.
The 65 returned home onboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight and were taken to Belvedere Teachers’ College.
There, they discovered there was no running water and they would be forced to share a communal bathroom.
A stand-off ensued for several hours, with the group refusing to sleep at the college.
Government spokesman Ndavaningi Mangwana attempted to whip up public sentiment against the new arrivals, claiming on Twitter that “they are refusing this accommodation demanding hotels.”
Mangwana added: “The government can’t afford. Why come from a Covid-19 hotspot during a lockdown and demand posh facilities at stretched public cost?”
Some members of the group, speaking through journalists, rejected Mangwana’s claims, instead saying they simply demanded to be placed in a facility with running water.
City of Harare engineers reportedly were later deployed to reconnect water to the college, with Mangwana later confirming that the 65 would spent the night at the facility, adding that “police are there to ensure that no-one will break the law of the land.”
The returnees said they had been given an undertaking that they would be transferred to the University of Zimbabwe on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe’s government has imposed a 35-day lockdown to slow own the spread of the coronavirus which causes the respiratory illness, Covid-19. Although the country’s borders are closed except for cargo, Zimbabwean nationals returning home are allowed in on condition they submit to a mandatory 21-day quarantine at a government appointed facility.
Some returnees, including a group that came back from Botswana, have complained of being placed in squalid conditions after being corralled in rundown schools. Protests by a group initially placed at Plumtree High School led to them being moved to Bulawayo where they were put in facilities at the Bulawayo Polytechnic and the United College of Education.
Millions of Zimbabweans have no access to running water, a legacy of the Zanu PF government which has historically starved funding to major infrastructure projects to improve the welfare of citizens in response to population growth in towns and cities.