Shebeen Uproar Continues

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William J. Mbangula OSHAKATI Hundreds of shebeen owners under the leadership of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) demonstrated at Ondangwa yesterday demanding the review of the Liquor Act No. 6 of 1998. They also condemned alleged police brutality against shebeen owners. Led by the NCCI Northern Branch chairperson Phillip Amwele, the demonstrators handed a petition to the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General, Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), Ministry of Safety and Security and also to the Swapo Party. The demonstrators asked whether the government and Swapo Party was aware that 95 percent of shebeen owners are also members of the ruling party and that their lives depend on the business. The demonstrators also pointed out that procedures to obtain a licence are very cumbersome and expensive, such as the filling in of forms and obtaining building plans. They also called for differential application fees instead of a blanket N$400 for all applicants regardless of the size of the enterprise. The group again called for a 12-month extension to give them time to re-apply and also meet the stringent conditions such as brick toilets although they operate their businesses from shanties. The demonstration at Ondangwa was prompted by alleged police brutality at Omuthiya-Gwiipundi last Saturday well as alleged incidents of intimidation and provocation by the police in and around Oshakati and Ondangwa. At Ondangwa, New Era was informed by another court source that more than 40 people were charged this week for the same offences including Corporal Efraim Shimwe, Private Joseph Kristof, Constable Paulus Shipwata and Naftali Nakashwa. All four suspects were arrested during the violent stand-off between the police and shebeen owners at Omuthiya-Gwiipundi in the Oshikoto Region last Saturday. In an interview with shebeen owner Rosalia Saba from Oneshila location in Oshakati, she told New Era that the government should not close the shebeens without providing alternative means of survival for those who are affected. She is the mother of two children and one of the children’s father has since passed away. Saba is a tombo seller who does not even know the alcohol content of her product. New Era also sought the view of another shebeen owner in Omahenene location in Oshakati, Shaukange Hamu-tele, who said many people have been under the impression that the licenses are only needed for bigger outlets of liquor. Director of Health in Oshana Dr Naftali Hamata is of the opinion that since there is no law which prevents the sale of liquor, there is no way the abuse of alcohol would disappear but as a controlling measure all shebeens should be licensed. “I personally believe that the closing time of licensed shebeens which is 22h00 is too late to bring the situation under control. Most of the incidents of assault and car accidents happen between that time and 24 h00 when the people who have consumed alcohol are returning to their homes.” Asked to comment about the traditional homebrew, otombo, whether it is something that can be legalised, Hamata noted that it is one of the extremely dangerous alcoholic drinks, which cannot even be recommended by any sensible person. The reasons being: it causes vitamin deficiency and chronic liver disease in a human being, its alcohol content is never quantified and is prepared under unhygienic conditions.