Shebeen War Spreads

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By Engel Nawatiseb TSUMEB Some cuca shop and shebeen owners at villages in the Oshikoto region have expressed anger at the invalidation of the powers of traditional authorities in respect of issuing liquor permits to small businesses. Some municipal councils currently face a spate of protests over the implementation of the Liqour Act, whose requirements most shebeen owners are reportedly not able to meet. Scores of villagers at Onyaanya in the Oshikoto region yesterday staged a peaceful demonstration to condemn the disempowerment of traditional authorities from granting trading licenses as was the practice before and after independence. They handed a petition to Onyaanya Constituency Councillor Henock Kankoshi after police at Okatope reportedly threatened to dispose of all liquor and other alcoholic substances should the Liquor Act continue to be violated by the deadline of Wednesday (today). Kankoshi told New Era during a telephonic interview yesterday that he received the petition from shebeen and cuca shop owners but redirected it (petition) to the Office of the Regional Governor Penda Ya Ndakolo as well as the Regional Police Commander. He declined to comment, saying the situation was sensitive as it borders on citizens’ rights vis-ÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚ -vis the laws of the country. Sources at Onyaanya told New Era that the most disturbing requirement contained in the Act was the provision of separate toilet facilities for men and women which they described as difficult to meet in rural areas. “Independence has brought us many surprises. We are being forced to comform to western principles while all along we all used to consult the forest to respond to the call of nature. We are in cuca shop business because we are poor people trying to make a living like anybody else but the axe is now on us the poor rural survivors.” The source noted that traditional authorities should be respected for the decisions they make because they know the villagers better than the police who are out there to deprive the vulnerable members of the community of their much-needed income to sustain themselves. The source who spoke on condition of anonymity stressed that she would dig two trenches, one for women and the other for men adjacent to each other behind her cuca shop and take the matter to her local leadership should the police disqualify her arrangement by the deadline. “Those were our traditional toilets, but mine will in fact be put up at a nice spot to avoid any health threats to my customers. Where would I get a loan then to put up ‘Western’ toilets if banks are refusing to give loans to villagers? We are only surviving on our meagre earnings from the sale of homebrew and other stuff. I think government is not serious about the matter,” stated the source. Another protestor cautioned that the closure of unlicensed shebeens might impact negatively on the education of children who entirely depend on their parents’ income from the alcohol outlets. “We prepare food at our cuca shops to sell and generate income, but we also feed our children from the same pots upon returning from school. Maybe somebody (government) must take over that responsibility if we are to be left jobless.” Protestors at Omuntele, also in the Oshikoto region reportedly joined the fray of discontent yesterday and demanded that traditional authorities be given the right to issue licenses to liquor traders. Sources told New Era that the demonstrators complained about the distance between their villages and the locality of local authorities that should issue such licences. The nearest issuing authorities are reportedly based at Ondangwa and Tsumeb, making life difficult for license applicants who have to travel long distances to acquire such permits before they can trade in liquor. Police at Tsumeb could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press, but similar police operations against illegal shebeen owners could be carried out at the town soon, said a source.