Saturday, October 31, 2020

Spate of ‘di-chillas’ overwhelms Gaborone police

Last Thursday evening, a Gaborone caller on Btv’s COVID-19 update programme who only identified himself as Daniel complained about house parties (“di-chillas”) in Block 5 where he lives. Indeed, with its open spaces and unfenced and thus easily accessible flat-block compounds, Block 5 has become one of the city’s main epicentres for hard partying that violates COVID-19 public health protocols.

Block 5 falls under the Gaborone West policing area and what Daniel said has been officially confirmed by the Station Commander of the Gaborone West Police Station, Superintendent Onious Madziba – who volunteered another vital piece of information.

“It is not just Block 5 alone,” he said on Friday afternoon. “The whole city is also experiencing the same problem. If you can sit by the police radio on an evening like today’s, reports about house parties flood in from all over the city from 6 p.m. and up to as late as 10 p.m.”

Madziba adds that COVID-19 law, which requires mask-wearing and social distancing and prohibits large gatherings, is also being wilfully broken at social football matches as well as around braai stands and pay snooker tables in open-air public places. With regard to the latter, he says that a meeting he held with officials from the Gaborone City Council has resolved to have snooker tables removed from public places.

Theoretically, the wilful breaking of the COVID-19 law drives up the infection rate and the Botswana Police Service is very important in containing spread because it is the only arm of force empowered to implement such law. As Madziba reveals, having to deal with an alcohol-fuelled situation is coming at a huge cost to public safety.

“With as many calls about house parties as we receive and have to attend to, we are forced to divert resources away from more serious crime,” he says, adding that reveller-culprits are either fined or given a warning. “Some run away at the sight of the police.”

Both the Coordinator of the Presidential COVID-19 Taskforce, Dr. Kereng Masupu, and his deputy, Professor Mosepele Mosepele, have consistently spoken disapprovingly about “di-chillas.” The latter has also revealed that one person who had attended a “chilling session” tested positive for COVID-19. 

What Madziba says about the police being overwhelmed is interesting against the background of how the liquor trade was re-opened following the national and regional lockdown. The Botswana Alcohol Industry Association lobbied long and hard and the government finally caved in. The Association launched a South African slang-themed campaign called “Di Nwele Dladleng” whose stated aim is to encourage alcohol consumers to purchase their liquor and consume it at their respective homes. The campaign is to be aided by a whistle-blowing application that enables members of the public to report merrymakers who violate the COVID-19 laws to the police. However, as Madziba reveals, the police are already overwhelmed.

Block 5 falls under the Gaborone West policing area and what Daniel said has been officially confirmed by the Station Commander of the Gaborone West Police Station, Superintendent Onious Madziba – who volunteered another vital piece of information.

“It is not just Block 5 alone,” he said on Friday afternoon. “The whole city is also experiencing the same problem. If you can sit by the police radio on an evening like today’s, reports about house parties flood in from all over the city from 6 p.m. and up to as late as 10 p.m.”

Madziba adds that COVID-19 law, which requires mask-wearing and social distancing and prohibits large gatherings, is also being wilfully broken at social football matches as well as around braai stands and pay snooker tables in open-air public places. With regard to the latter, he says that a meeting he held with officials from the Gaborone City Council has resolved to have snooker tables removed from public places.

Theoretically, the wilful breaking of the COVID-19 law drives up the infection rate and the Botswana Police Service is very important in containing spread because it is the only arm of force empowered to implement such law. As Madziba reveals, having to deal with an alcohol-fuelled situation is coming at a huge cost to public safety.

“With as many calls about house parties as we receive and have to attend to, we are forced to divert resources away from more serious crime,” he says, adding that reveller-culprits are either fined or given a warning. “Some run away at the sight of the police.”

Both the Coordinator of the Presidential COVID-19 Taskforce, Dr. Kereng Masupu, and his deputy, Professor Mosepele Mosepele, have consistently spoken disapprovingly about “di-chillas.” The latter has also revealed that one person who had attended a “chilling session” tested positive for COVID-19. 

What Madziba says about the police being overwhelmed is interesting against the background of how the liquor trade was re-opened following the national and regional lockdown. The Botswana Alcohol Industry Association lobbied long and hard and the government finally caved in. The Association launched a South African slang-themed campaign called “Di Nwele Dladleng” whose stated aim is to encourage alcohol consumers to purchase their liquor and consume it at their respective homes. The campaign is to be aided by a whistle-blowing application that enables members of the public to report merrymakers who violate the COVID-19 laws to the police. However, as Madziba reveals, the police are already overwhelmed.

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