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Revellers defy ban on mass gatherings

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“I was so shocked when I drove past the park and saw hundreds of people drinking at the park – in the presence of several police officers who were at the scene.”

TOUGH action will be taken against those who defy the ban on mass gatherings.

This was the stern warning issued by the Sol Plaatje Municipality after hundreds of party-goers gathered at Hulana Park in Galeshewe and the Oppenheimer Gardens opposite the Northern Cape High Court over the weekend.

The two venues have over the years become regular gathering spaces for young people.

According to a Galeshewe resident, the police helplessly tried to disperse the crowd at Hulana Park.

“I was so shocked when I drove past the park and saw hundreds of people drinking at the park – in the presence of several police officers who were at the scene. The people disregarded the protocol which was put in place by the president. All they cared about was having a nice time and getting drunk. I cannot believe people can be so irresponsible at a time like this. They are putting all our lives at risk,” she said.

Another resident concurred and said: “Those people were aware of the restrictions that were imposed on all of us as a country and went there to publicly disobey the rules. There were some who deliberately parked their vehicles in the middle of the street. The police had to intervene and direct the traffic. Even after they were ordered to leave, the majority of them went to the cricket field and carried on with their party.

“There are rumours that the police had to fire shots in the air to get people to move. These gatherings are now not only posing a risk to our health, but to our safety as well because innocent bystanders could have been hit if shots were fired.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa on March 15 called on South Africans not to gather in groups of more than 100 people in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Sello Matsie has labelled the behaviour of the revellers as “reckless”.

“The municipality has noted the recklessness of certain residents who gathered in their numbers at some of the known illegal drinking areas, notably Hulana Street and the Oppenheimer Gardens, which had to be dispersed by the police,” said Matsie.

“Correctly, members of the public have condemned this behaviour which undermines the national effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Together with other role-players we will be implementing strict measures, which will include increased traffic monitoring to deal with drinking and driving. The impounding of vehicles will form part of wider measures for those arrested for drunk driving.

“It should be stated that the failure to heed the instructions not to gather in large numbers is seriously hampering our efforts to prevent the possibility of spreading the virus which has claimed lives across the world. We call on everyone, including liquor businesses, to heed the ban on mass gatherings and sale of alcohol. The municipality will provide the necessary support to other law enforcement agencies to deal with transgressions,” said Matsie.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said they are waiting on compiled reports from all provinces to relay what action would be taken against those who continue to disobey the regulation.

“The regulation on gatherings was only passed last Thursday. We are waiting on reports from all provinces to assess the situation. We will issue a report later as we cannot deal with the matters on a blow-by-blow basis,” said Naidoo.