Thumbs up to the august house for realising the need to put things in order. I am particularly referring to the latest amendment bill on alcohol that was passed on last Friday. The bill amends the Alcohol Act promulgated in 1998 by the parliament under ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and Small and Medium Enterprises Development. Section 2A of this Act prohibit liquor selling in petrol and diesel service station. Under this amendment bill no licences will be issued to construction within certain distance in the vicinity of residential premises, educational institutions, churches and health centres. Moreover, condition will be attached regarding licencing of alcohol traders.
There is an outcry from people who own shebeens within residential areas- that are based mainly in high density suburbs countrywide and some are saying it could impact negatively to those who earn a living through selling of alcohol, citing that shebeens are source of income that could assist poor families. Of course the concept of shebeens benefit the owner in terms earning a living but please take note of this: it does not benefit the families of the customers of the shebeen and these are more in number than the owner. I personally think that owners of shebeens and their families do not represent the majority, instead customers and their families who are spending money on alcohol. This whole idea of shebeens being source of income cannot be justified, it is complex and cannot outweigh the negativity attached onto it. Shebeens are very common in Africa and are usually run illegally in people’s homes and yards as places to meet, socialise and party with alcohol.
It is sad to note that the way shebeens are mushrooming in various cities and suburbs here in Namibia actually distort order and dilapidate value of surrounding properties. Noise pollution, is one of the characteristics associated with shebeens that are located in residential areas. This has got a negative connotation on people’s dignity generally, talk less of school children who are bound to concentrate on school work. This can surely disturb residents at night and progress towards school work. In addition to this, violence can still arise at shebbens because there is no alcohol limit, people can stay till morning I truly second the parliament on this bold step because it may certainly reduce the number of sex workers, improves decency and all the way to lower down the rate of sexually transmitted diseases especially HIV/AIDS. There is nothing wrong in drinking alcohol as a way of refreshing or socialising, but we all know that shebeens promote promiscuity and defies dignity in general. Please note that shebeens are illegal drinking establishment- especially if they are situated within residential areas.
It is obvious that nothing good can come out of an illegal drinking setup. I am concerned to know if this bill is going to be implemented on time and if there are any penalties or fines attached as a result of failure to comply? Last year, Iraq government passed a bill that prohibits the import, production or selling of alcoholic beverages. This is an extra mile for sure, maybe the country has experienced the worst side of it. I can imagine the uproar in Namibia if the same is be done as in Iraq. People are contesting for no justified reason, this amendment bill is ‘just too good’ in my view.
Itai Zviyita is a graduate of BA in Media Studies with Zimbabwe Open University.