Days are Numbered for Illegal Shebeens

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The police through the tough “No Shebeen Operation” that started at Walvis Bay are to close down hundreds of unlicensed liquor outlets at the coast where thousands depend on the informal industry. The Deputy Commissioner of the police at Walvis Bay, Andrew Iyambo confirmed that there are 439 shebeens at the town and that only 39 are licensed. Since the operation started, eight illegal shebeen operators have been arrested and six shebeens have been shut down. Iyambo could not give specifics on how much liquor was seized though he says it is “a lot”. According to Iyambo, every second house in the Kuisebmund suburb has a shebeen and most of these are not licensed. For the past five years, the deputy commissioner has at several meetings with various stakeholders discussed the need to have shebeens licensed but no effort has been forthcoming from the liquor sellers to acquire licences. “There are hundreds of shebeens selling throughout, we are targeting illegal ones and it is indefinite when the operations will end,” he told New Era. Ever since police started patrolling the areas known to have hundreds of shebeens, illegal operators have resorted to selling liquor behind closed doors. These, Iyambo says, will be dealt with in accordance with the law. Already, the six who have been arrested were charged with illegal selling of liquor and will re-appear in court on August 25, 2006 for plea and trial. Based on the liquor Act, offenders should pay a fine of not less that N$4 000. The deputy commissioner expressed concern over alcohol consumption at Walvis Bay, adding that the habit disturbs the social fabric of the community as most children grow up with images of drunken adults. “Beer bottles become toys to them,” he stressed. The alcohol problem is also hindering positive development at the town. “We cannot build kindergartens at the town because there are shebeens all over,” he said. Kuisebmund has always reported higher crime rates than other parts of the town. “Every Tuesday we have the management meeting with all station and unit commanders. In Naraville, crime cases do not exceed five cases, while Kuisebmund will have the lowest of 24 cases,” Iyambo elaborated. Yesterday morning, hundreds of people gathered in Kuisebmund preparing for a demonstration but according to the Communications Officer at the Walvis Bay Municipality Nolita Marques, the demonstration was called off following the Municipality’s Chief Executive Officer Augustinus Katiti’s advice that demonstrators should wait for the outcome of a meeting that is planned with the Governor of the Erongo Region Samuel Nuyoma. The said meeting is scheduled to take place tomorrow. Shebeen business is the main source of income for most people at the town and those affected are appealing to the police to allow them to operate during the legal hours. Shebeens, based on the Liquor Act should be open from 09h0 until 14h00 and from 16h00 to midnight. Though these are the legal operating hours, most shebeens are open throughout the day and night. Marques added that there is a misunderstanding that the police were instructed by the Municipality of Walvis Bay management to start with the operation. He reiterated that it was the police’s initiative. “The municipality is sympathetic to shebeen owners but our hands are tied,” stated the communications officer. The deputy police commissioner says people should not defend the indefensible and the operations will continue.