Before the government ordered all bars and nightclubs to close, the Showtime team homed in on some of the popular drinking holes in the city Friday to check whether people are abiding by the 100-persons limit of gathering and the 1-2 metres rule of social distancing.
It was quite surprising to see Batswana in most of these recreational centres doing their business as usual despite the government’s new order that imposed a suspension of public gatherings of more than 100 people for 30 days. The Showtime team made its first stop at King Zone bar previously known as Pennywise in Phase 4. The bar was closed, but there were people hanging around the place drinking and interacting in small groups of five to 10 people.
From there Showtime passed by the popular Bonanza mall in Block 9 that houses Bahama Lounge and other bars so the whole place was teeming with people. People were shaking hands and hugging and disregarded the advice to exercise caution in social interactions.
The following stop was the notorious Tsabong bars complex at Tsolamosese, Mogoditshane village and just like the previous stop it was packed with more than 100 people and the car parking lot was full as well. People there ignored the advice to maintain a distance of 1-2 meters between themselves, so basically they couldn’t keep away from each other where possible. The government ramped up the social distancing rules and all Batswana should now stick to in an attempt to keep the spread of coronavirus at bay. But tragically, people at the bars couldn’t care less.
It was matters worse at one of the fashionable drinking places called Botshabelo Bar in Mogoditshane near Sir Seretse Khana Barracks where a head count indicated more than 100 people were present. Perhaps the positive aspect worth noting is that there was a man standing at the bar gate with a mask who provided sanitisers to patrons as they went inside the bar.
In terms of social distancing, there was no space between people in that enclosed area and they would even sit closer to each other on a bench. Handshakes were the norm and some even went to an extent of sharing 750ml beer quarts.
Showtime then headed to United in Block 6 where people had already flooded the place and for a drinking centre that is so popular amongst the youth, one would have thought that the latter would practice wherever possible the 1-2 metres healthy distance between each other. This is the place that houses different bars, lounges and nightclubs so people could be seen ignoring the advice to limit the contact and consequently limiting the potential for the spread of the virus.
The subsequent stop just before midnight was one of the most popular bars in Tlokweng village Pub 45. It was even bad because the whole place was swarming with hundreds of people. To save the worst for last, Showtime completed its tour at Notwane club around 1am on Saturday morning and people who had been enjoying themselves at bars went on to continue their fun at Notwane Club in Gaborone.
It was a large crowd in an enclosed space and the fact that they had gathered there was in clear defiance of public health warnings. The community clearly loved and adored its lifestyle and in the end it didn’t comply with the regulations and the health warnings.
Around all the places, there was no visible law enforcement to act and demand for people to disperse. Whereas it was expected that the police would not negotiate with those holding gatherings of more than 100 people, the police didn’t take any hard stance against all gatherings
Despite Batswana ignoring all the rules banning gatherings of 100 or more, people remained in place until the government implemented a more stringent measure effective Saturday.
In light of neighbouring Zimbabwe registering its first confirmed coronavirus case on Friday and in recognition of the risk, Botswana government moved swiftly to impose further restrictions on Friday by amending the liquor regulations.
This was another drastic step to enforce social distancing in the country and reduce the number of people allowed to gather to 10 from the initial 100.The amended regulations were in significant part, directing immediate closure of bars, discotheques and clubs while extending trading hours of bottle stores by 30 minutes to close at 8pm from Monday to Friday.
The new rules also prohibit hosting of festivals, trade fairs, picnics and other public activities. However, the decision to order the nationwide shutdown was only finally known to the general public Saturday afternoon.
This was a massive step-up of the government’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak and the Showtime team on Saturday took another tour around to check whether bars had been shutdown as required. The police at the time had already been instructed to enforce the closure, including removing people if necessary.
At the time the new regulations reached the public, many bars around town had opened at 12pm. It is said that the police had to force bar owners to close starting at 4pm.
When Showtime crew again visited some of the popular drinking spots in the city and neighbouring villages on Saturday, many of them had already closed by 7pm. Although bar owners adhered to the new regulations, in some places, patrons gathered in large numbers outside the bars drinking, failing to follow the social distancing restrictions.
In Tlokweng, police officers were moving around urging bar owners to adhere to the trading restrictions. The popular Cool Pub 2 and Cool Pub 7 popularly know as Eros are some of those that were forced to shut.
Botshabelo bar in Mogoditshane village, which is one of the places that was fully-packed on Friday, was closed on Saturday with just about three people seen sitting outside.
While at another popular spot in Mogoditshane known to many as Phindane complex, the popular Café Capadona–Bar and Grill was closed. However, one of the bars in the complex was operating and had attracted a large crowd fighting to buy their last beers before it got shut eventually.
At Mmopane village Kopje Bar, one of the popular drinking holes, was closed by 9pm. But a large crowd which exceeded 100 was seen entertaining itself just outside the bar premises. The butchery was still open and some of the people who still had their drinks in hand bought meat and began a braai session to extend the night.
Most of the bars in Gaborone had adhered to the rules by 9pm so Showtime took a drive to Mochudi in Kgatleng and shot straight to the popular Bee 6 Bar which by then had already closed. Although it had just rained, people were still hanging by the bars with some doing some parking lot pimping, as their car sound systems continued what the bars couldn’t. Meanwhile, the crew also observed that it was business as usual at some less known bars in Pilane. There was an electricity power cut in parts of the area so this gave people an allowance to ignore the rules.