Shebeeners Plan Mass Demo

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK While most people would have by now forgotten about the shebeen uproar that caused waves in the country roughly three months ago, shebeen owners are threatening to stage yet another demonstration in early December. Currently, the Namibia Shebeen Association (NSA) is in the process of finalizing preparations for yet another “peaceful” demonstration. President of the NSA Veripi Kandenge said yesterday that the demonstration that is scheduled for December 4 would involve not less than 5 000 disgruntled participants. Already, 250 buses have been organized to transport demonstrators from their towns of residence, especially from the northern parts of the country. The march will start from Mondesa in Swakopmund to the municipal offices and finally to the Erongo governor’s office. “We will have a one day march and seven days’ protest if the governor does not give an answer,” Kandenge said. He said demonstrators intend to camp outside the governor’s office until they get the desired answer. Shebeeners in the Erongo and Karas regions still face harassment from the police, Kandenge said. All affected regions across the country have assured their support for the demonstration to take place in the Erongo Region. Among the many shebeen issues that have not yet been resolved, Kandenge revealed that most of the new applications made through the new Liquor Act system are not being approved, something Kandenge termed discouraging. The shebeen ‘hue and cry’ started in May 2006 in the Erongo Region where the police through the tough “No Shebeen Operation” closed down hundreds of unlicensed liquor outlets. The operation spread to other parts of the country. In their quest for a lasting solution, shebeen owners were prompted to petition President Hifikepunye Pohamba. In the petition, shebeeners requested for an end to the operation and a possible two-year moratorium to be effected to enable operators in this industry to obtain licenses. Pohamba held various consultations with different stakeholders on the matter, including churches, the King of the Ondonga people Immanuel Kauluma Elifas, the Namibia Non-Governmental Organization Forum (Nangof) and Women’s Action for Development (WAD). Three weeks after handing over a petition, embittered shebeen owners marched on parliament demanding a moratorium on the Liquor Act. Thousands of disgruntled shebeen owners marched to the National Assembly where they handed a petition to Speaker of the National Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab, and Chairman of the National Council, Asser Kapere. While an answer could not be provided at the time, shebeeners decided to camp just outside parliament building where they spent more than a week in protest against the current Liquor Act. After wide consultations with different stakeholders, pro-shebeen demonstrators finally left for their homes but promised they might return if no satisfactory solution to their plight was found.