The Revolt of the Shebeens

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By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK Peace eventually returned to Omuthiya yesterday following unrest on Saturday that is said to have killed one person. Police tear-gassed, whipped, arrested and subdued several shebeen owners who say they wanted more clarity on the new Liquor Act being enforced. One person is said to have died as a result of the alleged heavy-handed tactics employed against people by members of the police who claimed they only reacted to the provocations involving hostage-taking and stoning by an unruly mob. The whipping and tear-gassing resulted in some of the demonstrators being hospitalised while one suffered a broken arm at the settlement in the Oshikoto Region. Shebeen owners further accused the police of being foul-mouthed as they apparently used abusive and belittling language in addition to firing rubber bullets at the shebeen owners. Yesterday, Fanuel Amukoto, Naftali Nakashwa, Filipus Efraim and Fabian Angula were expected to appear in court for obstructing the police while executing their duties and causing malicious damage to property by stoning police vehicles. Swapo’s Regional Co-ordinator in the Oshikoto Region, Armas Amukwiyu, appealed for calm and promised a meeting will be convened today that would be attended by the Governor and the police to find a “peaceful” solution. The regional co-ordinator said the meeting will take place this morning at Swapo Party’s regional headquarters at Tsumeb after which he would brief Omuthiya residents. He also felt that though the Government had informed shebeen owners about the Liquor Act, the time frame in which it is being implemented “is too short” and that “we will see if we can prolong the due date. We are not against the law but we want to address our differences through peaceful means without resorting to any violence.” He said he was positive an amicable solution would be found after this morning’s meeting. Moses Amukoto, businessman at Omuthiya whose brother was among those arrested, said shebeen owners were yesterday given forms so that they could apply for new licences and comply with the new law. He said the regional liquor board is expected to meet in August at Tsumeb to inform those whose applications would be successful. He complained that the application form is too cumbersome to fill in as it requests shebeen owners to include a sketch of their business. Some people that New Era spoke to at the settlement felt their operations are legal because they have trading licences issued by the Government-recognised Ondonga Traditional Authority and that Omuthiya is still a village resorting under the tribal authority. Since Saturday, all the shebeens at the settlement and that, apart from selling liquor, also serve as informal restaurants have been closed and small traders say their businesses are incurring huge financial losses through unsold stock. Many fear the new Act could land tens of thousands on the streets.

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