POLICE in Bulawayo yesterday arrested 48 church members who were congregating for a service in Tshabalala suburb, defying lockdown regulations.
Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide Revelation members were arrested at their church at about 1PM.
Government imposed a five-week lockdown ending on May 3 and barred all social gatherings including those of churches to curb the spread of the deadly Covid-19.
The public is expected to stay at home and only leave their homes to buy essential commodities within a five-kilometre radius.
A Chronicle news crew observed as police arrested Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide Revelation members.
The members were wearing white garments but as police effected the arrest, they removed their church clothing.
The church premises are located about two kilometres from Tshabalala Police Station and the congregants were ordered to walk in a single file to the station with cops closely monitoring them.
They were made to observe social distance while being taken to the police station.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said: “A group of 48 people comprising men and women was today at around 1pm found at the Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide Revelation led by an Apostle Ndlovu who was heading the team. They were found at a church in Tshabalala worshipping, despite the lockdown regulations that outlaws such a gathering. They claimed that they thought that gatherings of below 100 people were permitted,” said Insp Ncube.
“They were then arrested and taken to Tshabalala Police Station where they are being held and are assisting police with investigations.”
He called on members of the public to adhere to lockdown regulations.
“I think people do not want to listen. It has been said over and over again that people must stay at home and they can only attend essential gatherings such as funerals, but church services were not exempted. They must follow regulations. Those who want to worship should do it in their homes. People must stay at home and abide by the given orders,” he said.
Residents who observed the church group being arrested expressed disappointment that some people were wantonly violating regulations.
Mr Dumisani Khabo said it was critical for residents to follow lockdown regulations as mass gatherings can easily spread the virus.
“At the moment we don’t know how many people actually have the virus. So, such gatherings could expose these congregants to Covid-19.
“When they leave their church, they will infect their neighbours and their neighbours also infect other people who come into contact with them. We can have the whole community getting the virus from such gatherings,” said Mr Khabo.
Mr Thomas Phiri of Tshabalala suburb said churches should be exemplary in society.
“Even the Bible says we must obey the rules of our lands. Churches must lead by example naturally. But if you find a church and its people disobeying rules and put the lives of other people at risk, then it’s no longer a church. It’s a cult, those people have been brainwashed. And endangering children and exposing them to such risk is something else,” said Mr Phiri.
This is not the first time for church members to be arrested for violating Covid-19 lockdown regulations in Bulawayo.
Two weeks ago, police arrested nine congregants of the Revival of Jesus Miracles Ministries in Nketa suburb for gathering in public in violation of lockdown regulations.
They were also taken to Tshabalala Police Station and each paid a $500 admission of guilt fine.
Those who fail to raise the required fines risk two months in jail.