Pro-Shebeen Demo Marches on Parliament

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Embittered shebeen owners marched on parliament in the grip of a pervasive mood of anger demanding a moratorium on the Liquor Act. Yesterday thousands of disgruntled shebeen owners marched to the National Assembly where they handed over a petition to Speaker of the National Assembly Theo-Ben Gurirab and Chairman of the National Council Asser Kapere. The demonstration comes three weeks after the group marched to State House to hand over a petition to President Hifikepunye Pohamba. In the petition, demonstrators adamantly voiced a need for the government to place a moratorium on the implementation of the Liquor Act and the liquor regulations until factors that impede effective and efficient compliance are sorted out. The demonstrators, who gathered at Wernhil Park in the Capital at 10h30 in the morning, only handed over the petition to the Speaker at about 15h30 in the afternoon. The delay was allegedly caused by communication problems. Initially police announced that only the leaders of the Namibia Shebeen Association (NASA) should go as far as parliament, but the idea was scorned as demonstrators demanded that they wanted to see the Speaker face to face. Escorted to the National Assembly under heavy police guard, about 3000 demonstrators from all corners of the country expressed their anger towards the government adding that the current ‘No Shebeens Operation’ campaigns that have seen the closure of more than 2000 unlicensed shebeens countrywide is subjecting them to hunger. Fuming with anger, Jesaya Dawid, a shebeen owner in Katutura told New Era that the current operation has made life a struggle for all the people who depend on this business as their main source of income. Though his shebeen has not yet been closed – but he is positive that it will be closed soon – the demonstrator says the situation has left many in an awkward situation. “I have children and I wonder how I will support them. All we are asking is for the government to give us a temporary go-ahead while they are still discussing the matter and finding a lasting solution”, he said. He added that the march by thousands of people is a sign that they are not satisfied with what is happening in this informal industry. As such, the people depend on the government to find solutions to their problem. “We elect you to listen to our grievances, our children are dying of hunger, we elect you to represent us, if you do not want liquor in the country then close the breweries”, he said angrily. Ananias further condemned the government by saying that what is going on presently was unfair to the poor. NASA President Veripi Kandenge said the more than 6000 people who are in the shebeen business are doing it due to lack of other alternatives that can help them generate money when he handed over the petition to the Speaker. He acknowledged that shebeens have to some extent created a negative picture about society. But he added that the Association had in the past engaged in discussions with the Ministry of Trade and Industry over the possibility of identifying a place where they can build proper structures that can be used as outlets for selling liquor. Receiving the petition, Gurirab commended the demonstrators for the peaceful demonstration saying that members of parliament as well as those in the national council will review the petition and will convey their response to NASA through proper channels. “Our government allows people to petition it. We want to assure you that the whole nation is aware of the situation, and as leaders, we will discuss your concerns. We want peace in the country and thus we should discuss these things in a peaceful manner”, said the Speaker. When asked how soon shebeen owners will receive the response, Kapere pointed out that the authorities will still have to review the petition and find ways on how this matter could be handled. Therefore it is not known when the response will be ready. That statement seemed to fuelled the anger of some demonstrators with Ben Petrus saying that, though the problem is serious, there seemed to be some degree of reluctance from the leaders’ side. “We are hungry, this is the second petition to the government and no response is forthcoming. We are tired of waiting and it is unacceptable”, he complained. Another disgruntled demonstrator, Moses Ananias, complained ” … this is a dictator kind of ruling. We are not going to respect you because you do not respect us”. He claimed most shebeen owners were those people who suffered for the liberation of the country. Some placards carried messages such as ‘Liquor Act No. 61 1998 is Pro-white, anti-black’. ’16 years after independence but still in shacks’. ‘The Liquor Act is pro-rich’. ‘We have done nothing against the police, we are just fighting poverty’.