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Lockdown empties streets of Francistown

RYDER GABATHUSE CHAKALISA DUBE LESEDI MKHUTSHWA
A3 Road from the Kenneth Nkhwa Interchange. PIC. KEOAGILE BONANG
FRANCISTOWN: The city woke up on Day 1 COVID-19 lockdown to literally empty streets and unusual quietness this morning.  The empty streets affirmed that Batswana and the country's second city dwellers have taken heed to the extreme social distancing plea from President Mokgweetsi Masisi early in the week.

As an endeavour to combat the COVID-19 or novel coronavirus pandemic, Masisi has not only imposed regulations but also pleaded with the nation to treat the fight against the pandemic as a serious affair. 

At least with three positive cases and one death associated with corona even doubting Thomases will have no energy to cling to any doubts: COVID-19 is on our shores. The 28-day State of Public Emergency declared by President Masisi is chiefly intended to control the highly infectious disease by reducing close contact of people. 

The city streets were literally empty just across the low, medium and high-income locations.  There was literally no activity more so that the informal sector traders who often fill up the streets with their wares had wrapped up and stayed home. 

The emptiness of the streets tells a story that no one was keen to dramatise or doubt as effects of the extreme social distancing as a way of combating the spread of the virus were setting in. 

The Mmegi crew covered the vastness of the city Phase Four Development area, which is popularly known for the Blocks, Monarch, Phase Six, Bluetown, Maipaafela, Aerodrome, Industrial site around Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Francistown abattoir, and it was all clear. 

There were fewer private motor vehicles along the many streets of the major roads except for police and military vans. 

Homeless and mentally disturbed people were seen stuck on the streets particularly by the bus rank waiting room early in the morning. 

Mmegi team visited the streets to check the current situation after lockdown and found some of the homeless and mentally disturbed left to roam the streets. 

Four street and homeless people were spotted near the waiting room sleeping on boxes, which indicated that they spent the whole night in the open space because they had nowhere else to go. 

In an

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interview with one of the homeless men found near the waiting room, Kabo Ben, he said that he spent the night there because he had no place to go to. 

The Tonota native told this publication that he was shocked to see the bus rank empty early in the morning. 

When asked about the coronavirus, the homeless man was clueless about the disease and upon sharing information with him he still insisted that he was not going anywhere. 

When reached for a comment, the Assistant District Commissioner, Tebogo Hlabano said that social workers have been deployed in different areas of Francistown to address the situation. 

She said that the social workers were deployed to search the street and find homeless people so that they can be taken to a safe location. 

Hlabano further said that the city clerk was in a better position to elaborate more on the matter.

Francistown Central Police Station (CPS) commander superintendent Lebalang Maniki said they have not received any report of people ignoring tougher restrictions on their movement.

Many key parts of the city such as shopping malls and busy low-income areas fall within the policing area of CPS. Meanwhile, there were virtually no taxis operating in almost all-key parts of the city.

Some attributed the lack of taxis to the ambiguity relating to how the permits meant to enable taxi owners to operate during the lockdown can be acquired.

In addition, some operators are also said to have been hesitant to apply for permits because of the reduced number of passengers to ferry per trip during the lockdown, which does not make business sense to them. Taxi operators are only allowed to carry 50% of their carrying capacity during the lockdown.

There were a few police officers in various streets in the city particularly around the Central Business District, who were roped in to enforce the lockdown laws.



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