Govt in a Squeeze over Shebeens

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The Namibia Shebeen Association (NASA) is threatening to bring more shebeen owners to the capital to protest against the ongoing ‘No shebeen’ operation of the police if Cabinet does not come up with a favourable answer at its meeting today. Last Thursday, about 4000 shebeen owners started a peaceful demonstration at parliament demanding a moratorium on the current Liquor Act. They have now spent six nights and seven days in the parliament gardens. Though the recipient of the petition Speaker Theo-Ben Gurirab assured a quick response to their demands, the group expressed dissatisfaction and maintained they will camp outside parliament. NASA President Veripi Kandenge convinced at least 3700 of the demonstrators to return to their homes leaving 300 shebeen owners camping at parliament while awaiting a response. Kandenge yesterday revealed in an interview that buses in Oshakati and Eenhana are ready, and, depending on tomorrow’s Cabinet decision, shebeen owners could descend onto Windhoek to continue with their protest. Minister of Trade and Industry Immanuel Ngatjizeko, at President Pohamba’s request, addressed the disgruntled shebeen owners during the weekend requesting them to return home. However, they persisted they would gather outside Parliament until such time as the government responds to their grievances. Ngatjizeko commended demonstrators for submitting their petition to parliament. However, he reminded them that parliament only meets from Tuesdays to Thursdays and thus the expectation is that the petition is only going to be presented to MPs today. In his capacity as the minister responsible for administering the Liquor Act, Ngatjizeko confirmed that last Thursday, he had made a statement in parliament announcing the ministry’s intentions. One of the campers at the site, Gideon Ausiku, whose shebeen businesses have been closed at Oshikuku and Walvis Bay adamantly stated that shebeen owners will be there till they get a positive answer. So far, Shebeen owners based in Windhoek are providing food, mainly bread and porridge to those camping outside parliament. Parliament toilets are also open for use. “We are well taken care of by good Samaritans”, he told New Era. He argues that the Liquor Act 61 of 1998 is fine but the implementation process is ‘disturbing’. “They just started closing shebeens without a warning. Some municipalities have no by-laws to direct one on steps to be followed if one has to own a shebeen”, he complained. Kandenge added that in 2002, only about 1300 people in Windhoek applied for licenses but received no responses. Most municipalities also suspended the issuing of fitness certificates in 2004. The certificates enable health inspectors, among others, to assess the environment where the shebeen structure will stand. This, according to Kandenge, has contributed to the problem of people running shebeens illegally.