Protests broke out at Covid-19 isolation centres for returning residents in Harare and Masvingo yesterday after returnees demanded to be released, saying they had overstayed.
The returnees also bemoaned poor living conditions at the facilities.
Skirmishes at the Masvingo Teachers’ College quarantine centre ended up with a fight between a male police officer and a 21-year-old woman, Edith Chisirimumhu, where the law enforcement agent allegedly bit the returnee’s finger.
Chisirimunhu confirmed the fistfight with the police officer only identified as Mashayamombe S, accusing him of provoking the fight.
“People were protesting demanding to be addressed by the social welfare and health officials because what we were told when we were quarantined and what is happening are totally different things,” she said.
“I was seated on a chair and he ordered me off.
“I asked him why he was forcing me off among all the people.
“He hit me on the shoulder and breast. “I did not retaliate. Other police officers ran away as the conflict escalated.
“At that time, people were in the kitchen canteen demanding to be addressed, by Mr Nzou (a welfare officer).
“The police officer threatened to beat me up. He threw away his service hat, rolling up his sleeves while advancing towards me, daring me to fight him.
“I threw away my phone after realising I was in danger. I fought back when he beat me.
She added: “We started fighting and when people intervened to stop the fight, the police officer grabbed my right hand and bit me on the finger. I bled profusely. I have been attended to and the finger is now bandaged.”
Chisirimunhu said the police officer’s colleagues were now trying to protect him and wanted her to sign a false statement.
In Harare, riot police were called to quell a potentially volatile situation at the Queen Elizabeth School quarantine centre when women housed there threatened to riot in protest against poor living conditions.
Our news crew was denied entry into the facility with police officers on guard saying it was dangerous as “they had come to deal with a volatile situation”.
“We have been called to deal with a volatile situation, so we cannot allow you to do what you want to do. Just wait outside,” said a police officer.
Frustrated with the living conditions and alleged lies from the department of social welfare over their long stay, the women threatened to storm out of the centre.
Some of the women said they had spent several weeks at the centre and were being exposed to Covid-19.
The women threatened to remove their clothes in protest over the treatment they were getting, accusing government of treating them like criminals.
Others could be seen fetching water with buckets without observing social distancing and some without the mandatory face masks.
A heavily pregnant woman and her child were also seen with the protesters telling the police officers how the situation was getting out of hand.
“We are being treated like criminals here,” she said. “It is not a crime that we had gone outside the country for greener pastures. We want to go home.”
An elderly woman, who claimed to have spent close to two months in quarantine confronted the police officers saying she had a problem with her teeth since coming into the facility.
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, however, said he was not aware of the protests in Harare and referred questions to the Health and Child Care ministry.
Government spokesperson Nick Mangwana was not picking calls yesterday evening.
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