‘No persons under 18 years allowed’ is a sign often seen at shebeens and liquor outlets around the country, but should another new sign read ‘No persons above 60 years allowed’?
//Karas regional leaders have on various occasions expressed concern about the way pensioners spend the government old-age grant, saying that many buy alcohol, while some gamble away their money, and that the problem is not unique to the region but is a countrywide one.
In 2014 The Namibian newspaper cited a parliamentary committee research into the abuse of alcohol that indicated there is widespread misuse of money on liquor by pensioners.
So will banning pensioners from shebeens help? Marius Vries, the manager of a bar in Berseba that prohibits pensioners from entering, says banning the elderly has not only helped the pensioners but the entire village.
A sign in Afrikaans at the entrance warns pensioners they won’t be served. Vries says the decision to ban pensioners was made after observing a disturbing trend in that pensioners flock to the bar after receiving their grant, then spend it on alcohol.
Vries says this usually left many households at the village, which are highly dependent on senior citizens for survival, without food and other basics, and this he wanted to rectify and hence the ban.
“They are not allowed in here because we don’t want them to buy beer with money they get from the government; this is money they should use to buy their basics,” he said.
He adds that the ban has improved the lives of pensioners at the village, since they no longer have access to alcohol and thus spend their money on the right things such as food, adding that the community has welcomed the idea with open arms.
Asked whether banning pensioners can be the solution to the grant misuse, //Karas Governor Lucia Basson feels it is a good idea, indicating that it will go hand in hand with government’s efforts to eradicate poverty.
She says this can only be possible if all shebeen owners take a decision to ban pensioners from entering shebeens, and thus help them use the grant for the intended purposes.
“I will be happy if all shebeen owners could take that example and do the same,” she said.
Karasburg East Constituency Councillor Dennis Coetzee concurred with the governor, stating that the issue is a big problem in the constituency and if banning pensioners will help solve the problem then it should be done.
He narrated how pensioners always visit a shebeen that is nearby Karasburg Nampost, saying some pensioners even don’t get home with any money.
“Some pensioners get drunk and sleep around in the streets and also end up being robbed, so if shebeen owners are willing to assist in this regard then we can make great strides,” he said.
Keetmanshoop Rural Constituency Councillor Elias !Kharuxab echoed Coetzee’s sentiments, stating that banning pensioners would force them to learn how to be responsible in the use of their monthly grant of N$1 100.
He also said that in some cases pensioners, after receiving their grant, spend it all on alcohol, and don’t even buy clothes for themselves.
He however wants government to come up with alternative activities that pensioners can engage in, instead of frequenting shebeens to spend their money on booze.
“If you want to stop them from doing what they do now, then you should be able to give them other things to do,” he said.