By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The planned demonstration involving shebeen operators, which was scheduled to take place today at Swakopmund, was cancelled following talks between the Namibia Shebeen Association (NASA) and the “relevant authorities”. President of NASA, Veripi Kandenge, yesterday confirmed the mass demonstration that was supposed to happen today was stopped following a meeting with an inter-ministerial committee last week Thursday. “We talked to the inter-ministerial committee last week and through the agreement reached we hope our problems will be solved soon,” he said. During the meeting, it was agreed that “shebeen problems” in all regions would be attended to soon. The association will also before this weekend submit the names of shebeen operators who feel they were treated unfairly with regard to their applications to the regional liquor boards. 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 – although he could not provide figures. An internal meeting is also scheduled to take place during the course of this week to decide on the next step should it happen that the current shebeen problems are not addressed. Last week, shebeeners threatened to stage another demonstration given that their grievances are allegedly being ignored. The demonstration that was going to involve at least 5 000 participants was to take place in the Erongo region where shebeeners are still allegedly being jammed with law enforcers. By last week, 250 buses were organized to transport demonstrators from different parts of the country, especially from the northern parts of the country. The march was expected to start from Mondesa in Swakopmund to the town’s municipal offices and finally to the Erongo governor’s office. All affected regions across the country had assured their support for the demonstration. The shebeen problem 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 exercise then spread to other parts of the country. With most operators in the industry not accepting the law being implemented this year, they marched to State house asking for President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s intervention in the matter. This resulted in various consultations with different stakeholders in the country. While awaiting a response from the government, the shebeeners marched yet again to parliament hoping lawmakers would have an answer in the shortest possible time but given the process that a law has to pass through, it simply frustrated shebeeners, hence their camping outside Parliament Buildings for more than a week. After negotiations with different stakeholders such as the Ministry of Trade and Industry, an agreement was reached with the assurance that the shebeeners’ problems would be solved soon but to date the feeling among shebeeners is that still more needs to be done. The Liquor Act apart from demanding a liquor-operating license emphasizes that shebeen structures must be built with concrete blocks and there must be two toilets for the different sexes. Shebeeners have argued it is not easy for the informal economy to build the toilets and have running taps, required as per schedule four of the Act. Life has become a struggle for all people who depend on this business as their main source of income, commented one shebeen owner.
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