Empty beer bottles sustain group of boys

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Keetmanshoop

While revelers flock to shebeens for a cold beer or two, some are simply hoping to find as many empty bottles as possible before closing time.

This is the story of four boys who move from one shebeen to the next, waiting and wishing that people finish their drinks as quickly as possible, so that they can collect the bottles, which they then sell for some income.

The boys say the more people drink, the better for them, as there are more bottles lying around and this means more money in their pockets.

New Era spoke to them as they sat just outside a popular hangout spot at the southern capital, Keetmanshoop. Beside them were empty beer bottles they had collected and they seemed alert and quick to pick up any bottles thrown away by the drinkers.

They said they typically come to the drinking outlets as soon as revelers start to arrive.

Aged 15, 16, 17 and 19, with the eldest of them in Grade 11, while the youngest is in Grade 7, they say although their parents warned them not to do what they do, they have little choice but to keep doing it, especially when things are bad at home.

“They’re worried about us, but then there’s nothing at home, so we have no choice but to come here,” said one of the boys.

The boys, who did not want to be named, come from various households and said despite living with people that work, or with pensioners, who can provide for them, sometimes the going gets tough and they are forced to collect bottles and use the little they get to buy sugar or bread for their household.

They say on average they earn about N$50 per night, depending on the number of customers at the shebeens, but on this night it was not going that well, as at about 01h00 in the morning the collection was not satisfactory yet, as it amounted to only N$30, which the boys say is very little, as they have to share it equally.

They try to add as many empty bottles as possible, as they search between parked cars and among the people. They say they are not afraid and are careful to avoid being caught up in fights.

“People were fighting just now, but we try our best to stay as far away from the fights as possible,” said the youngest of the boys.

As the shebeen is about to close, they go for a last search and then grab their big plastics bags, start putting all their bottles into the bags, and off they go to their houses, which are located in close proximity to the drinking spot.

The youngsters say that they will sell the bottles the next morning and get ready for another long night. This, they say, is their job every weekend.

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