Time to act on shebeens is now
Plans by the authorities to clamp down on illegal shebeens should be welcomed with a great sigh of relief.
It would have been hypocritical of lawmakers to, as they did last week, wage a verbal war on alcoholism without practically raising a finger.
Addressing Government Permanent Secretaries on Thursday last week, President Hifikepunye Pohamba also took issue with the excessive use of alcohol in the country.
Apart from clamping down on shebeens that operate without licences, authorities must also up the tempo in as far as regulating alcohol outlets are concerned.
Currently, if you go to Katutura, many shebeens open as early as 08:00. This essentially means that people can start drinking as early as that. Yet we strive to purportedly make Namibia a nation of productive people – with the ultimate of achieving the goals of Vision 2030.
Yes, shebeens provide employment to many unemployed masses out there while creating wealth for the owners. Shebeens are a way to generate money to send children to school and put meals on the tables.
But in sharp contrast, shebeens are also the hubs of immoral activities. Drunkenness has its origins in pubs and it is this state of mind that leads to murder, rape, poor health and general lack of productivity.
In countries with serious leadership, shebeens open at around 10:00 and close at 22:00, midweek. This, in principle, is almost the same rule in Namibia but authorities hardly keep tabs on operators.
The lawmakers must therefore stop barking loudly about this bad phenomenon and rather start acting. Talking is one thing but walking the talk is what really matters.
President Pohamba took the battle to shebeens months after coming into power. That stance created hope then. We thought the long-awaited messiah has arrived.
But as soon as a group of shebeen owners vowed not to leave Parliament premises where they had camped in protests, the fight against alcoholism and the mushrooming of shebeens died a sudden death.
There are more benefits in regulating shebeens or limiting their hours of operation than not. Limiting working hours would not lead to job losses on the part of those working in bars and pubs.
Instead, citizens would dedicate their time to other productive activities such as job hunting or establishing income-generating activities instead of heading to bars straight from their beds.
Recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk, are on the increase and it is time to seriously address this issue.