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Western Commonage suspends proceedings: 12 prosecutors in isolation

Western Commonage Court

Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
Magistrates’ courts at Western Commonage Court in Bulawayo have suspended all trials after 12 public prosecutors, among them seven police officers attached to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), were placed on self-isolation for 14 days after one of them tested positive for Covid-19.

All criminal cases were immediately transferred to the magistrates’ court at Tredgold Building. Public institutions have been hit hard by the global pandemic which left scores of people in Bulawayo infected and many quarantined.

On Monday, 43 inmates and 23 prison officers at Bulawayo Prison tested positive for Covid-19. Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) recently launched its Covid-19 operational plan, which is aligned to the national health guidelines.

This comes as local transmissions are rising with the total number now at 2 034 since Zimbabwe confirmed the first case on March 20.

The country has recorded 26 Covid-19 deaths.

When The Chronicle visited Western Commonage Magistrates’ Court yesterday, there was no business activity although the courtrooms were open to the public.

Prosecutor -General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi confirmed yesterday that a prosecutor at Western Commonage Court had been infected by the deadly virus.

He said NPA was now working with health authorities in Bulawayo and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to track down contacts of the positive case, including visiting their homes.

“As NPA, we are working together with the Judicial Service Commission, the Ministry of Health and Child Care and our parent ministry to come up with a comprehensive response to safeguard the interests of the public. We want to safeguard the health of the public without compromising the administration of justice,” said Mr Hodzi.

He said measures were being taken including contact tracing and testing of other members within the institution.

“The local Covid-19 taskforce has been notified to assess the situation so that they come up with the best possible recommendations on what ought to be done. The Ministry of Health and Child Care will give advice on the way forward and come up with the best course of action,” said Mr Hodzi.

He said investigations are underway to establish the source of infection for the positive case although the building is not under quarantine.

Sources at Western Commonage Magistrates’ Courts told Chronicle that a list of all prosecutors and their contacts have since been submitted to the Ministry of Health and Child Care for tracing.

Meanwhile, National University of Science and Technology (Nust) has indefinitely suspended all activities at the campus for both staff and students, and ordered all local students to vacate the university halls of residence by tomorrow.

This follows reports that there is a student who shares accommodation outside the campus with a Covid-19 case that is being traced by the rapid response team in Bulawayo.

The university also deferred all examinations until further notice.

In a statement, Nust Registrar, Mr Biggy Ngwenya said all teaching and learning will be done 100 percent online after suspending face-to-face lectures, projects consultations and any other physical contact with students. Final year projects will be submitted on line.

The Faculty of Medicine clinical classes will however continue with their lectures and examinations as planned.

“The university wishes to advise staff and students that it has been contacted by the Covid-19 rapid response team about a student who shares accommodation outside campus with a case that they are tracing. All activities on campus for both students and staff are suspended with effect from end of day, Friday 24th of July 2020 until further notice,” said Mr Ngwenya.

“All students in the university halls of residence, except foreign students must vacate by 10am on Saturday, 25th of July 2020.”

The university said only critical staff including those that are involved in Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-testing, production of sanitisers and personal protective equipment, cleaning and security will be allowed on campus.