City Shebeens Face Crackdown

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Prospective shebeen applicants are set to feel the crunch following the City of Windhoek’s decision to impose a new regulation of “one shebeen per street”. The latest move is calculated at cracking down on the mushrooming of illegal shebeen outlets in Windhoek. According to the City’s latest monthly report, “one shebeen per street” means that only one prospective shebeen applicant would be allowed to have a liquor outlet in that particular street. It is proposed: “No two shebeens shall be within 200 metres’ walking distance of each other.” The ‘Policy on Small Businesses, Businesses Streets and Shebeens” that was agreed upon by Council in September 28 last year states: “No new applications for rezoning in minor residential streets will be considered before the policy is in place.” In the case where there are two or more applications within the same neighbourhood, the application from the erf adjoining onto a wider street shall take preference. First preference for applications shall also be given to erven with street corner locations. This is on condition that the application to the City of Windhoek adheres to the existing rules and regulations of establishing a shebeen. “It goes without saying that applications already received will have preference over persons who have chosen so far not to apply,” says Public Relations Officer of the Windhoek Municipality Liz Sibindi, adding that business activities must exceed 25 percent of the built floor area and not have more than two additional employees on that erf. If a licensed shebeen is in an authorised “business development area” it will be granted, but if it’s an unlicensed shebeen in a residential area, then they will be closed down. The latest turn of events comes while the City’s Strategic Executive Planning, Urbanisation and Environment Department is yet to finalise the draft Policy on Shebeens as it critically looks at the proposed rules for liquor licensing applications as a matter of urgency. Nowadays, illegal shebeens are found all over the city suburbs and in many cases on a single street almost every second house is a shebeen. Interesting revelations from liquor outlet applications for business zoning to the Windhoek municipality is that Hakahana settlement has the highest number where one in every eight houses wants to erect a shebeen. The second highest is Goreangab with one house in 16, while the frequency of one in 75 in Katutura seems reasonable. ” The City of Windhoek approves close to 200 applications in a year for people to work from home and supports 80 rezoning applications,” states Sibindi. However, due to the mushrooming of shebeens, complaints from the public are rife over noise pollution arising from continuous drinking and dancing by patrons. Concern has also been raised about the high level of alcohol abuse and a rise in crime owing to alcohol abuse. Recently, the City Police together with the Namibian Police expressed concern about the rise in crime around shebeens and nearby riverbeds. In its ongoing crime prevention campaign “Black September”, law enforcement officials have confiscated guns and knives from people around shebeen outlets. Since August, the police seized 79 unlicensed firearms and numerous knives at shebeens and other drinking places. Public perception is that while shebeens create employment, they are also crime nests where brutal murders, robberies and suicides take place. “Walking around with knives in the public is a criminal offence and if you are seen walking in town and threatening people with it you will be caught,” explained Chief Inspector of the Namibian Police, Angula Amulungu. Meanwhile, the City of Windhoek has the responsibility to introduce control measures that will help reduce the negative impact of such liquor outlets in the capital. The City authorities reserve the right to terminate a liquor licence if there are public complaints of violence being reported on a monthly basis. Other reasons for withdrawing a licence include vulgar behaviour, foul language, urinating and defecating in public as reported on a weekly basis, and streets, entrances and passages being blocked at least once a week due to business activities. Given the above, the city authority arrived at the conclusion that no two liquor outlets of the same kind will be allowed within 200 metre’ walking distance of each other. In March this year, a meeting was held between nine city councillors to review the “Policy on Small Businesses, Business Streets and Shebeens” after which they made the proposals. Consequently, with all the talk about the shebeens, a new ministerial committee was also set up to deal with the problem. During a recent council meeting, Councillor Nico Smit commended Windhoek City Council officials for dealing so quickly with the shebeen issue soon after it arose. Meanwhile, President of the Namibia Shebeen Association Veripi Kandenge said that imposing rules on shebeeners would not solve the problem, but that the authorities should rather look at ways to understand their situation. “The shebeen culture will not be killed because the need is there. Rather make the system workable within community members. There should be more education and understanding than intimidation,” said Kandenge. He maintained that the government should put a two-year moratorium on the current Liquor Act.