You will recall, in the recent past their march on the parliament. It was quite a spectacle with them camping out there with their colourful underwear, in all sizes, hung all over the place and an ox slaughtered, not as some sorcery, but to provide for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Some NEEF companies donated fish and the breweries also did some roaring business at the expense of the aggrieved. The government was paralyzed with half the cabinet fleeing the country, in the process pocketing sorely needed S&T.
Last week, the shebeeners were massed in numbers in Wanaheda to express their outrage at the temerity of a joint Nampol/City Police operation to enforce provisions of the Liquor Act of the country. But then it was not as if the police sprung a surprise on them. They have been warning traders to rectify their status.
All the same, the shebeen owners were massively enraged that the police, in fact, were as good as their word and sought to implement the law as they have been warning for some time, to do. They promised to march yet again on the parliament. Who can blame them for the planned march for there is no greater force of example than the power of success?
Little wonder, when Ruusa Malulu and the former combatants threatened a march on the State House, they barricaded the streets and sent out the police to read lectures on Patriotism 101. But we digress.
Many still fail to come to the fact that our new found freedoms are tempered by conventional laws of democracy lest we degenerate into anarchy. It was, therefore, quite a shock to the system to see the Supreme Court berating our Minister of Justice a day after shebeen owners were insisting on peddling their wares outside the laws of the land.
Our Minister was caught out protecting an errant magistrate found guilty on eight counts of misconduct including roughing up court witnesses and selling kapana and ekaka during court time! The court found that the conduct of the Minister in taking action was in conflict with her statutory duty under the Magistrates’ Act of 2003.
Said Justice Langa…”Given that one of the tasks of the Minister is to uphold the independence and integrity of the courts, she should exercise the powers conferred upon her by (the Magistrates’ Act) promptly and efficiently. In this case she failed”.
Minister Ivula-Ithana is not the first nor will she be the last to suffer defeat at the hands of our courts. But the ministers appear with mechanical regularity at courts with pathetic cases which cannot but give the impression that morality to uphold our laws enjoys a low place within the DNA of government.
It is such attitude, combined with government’s lax and erratic implementation of the country’s laws, which engenders a sub-culture of unruly behaviour. The majority of shebeen owners have for far too long operated in contravention of the law such that they fail to understand the government’s Damascene cause. And who can blame them? We will all the same do our best to speak up for the law. It is the Liquor Act, 1998 (Act No. 6 of 1998) as amended, which regulates the sale of liquor in Namibia. In Part 1 of the Act it says peremptorily...”No person shall sell liquor, except pursuant to and in terms of a current license authorizing the sale of such liquor”. Contrary to popular misconception that shebeens inhabit the “informal sector”, this provision also covers sale of liquor by shebeens.
That is to say, as far as our laws are concerned, shebeens are subject to the complete regime of application for and licensing like any other trader. Again, contrary to general practice and belief, the shebeen license is an “on –consumption” license. If implemented to the letter, the Liquor Act will stem out many of the disagreeable practices and conduct which hold neighbourhoods and communities to ransom.
The granting of licenses is not a perfunctory function and the authorities need to apply their mind and consider the negative consequences of liquor trading, such as nuisance and annoyance caused by these traders; the social and welfare consequences which the sale of liquor will have for the residents of the area; ensure that sale of liquor does not occur in the vicinity of schools or places of worship and that such trading places are suitable from safety and health reasons.
Affected residents can also file a complaint for the closure of errant shebeens. So says the law. When all this is done, the shebeen owners, like all others selling liquor, are expected to prominently display the original license prominently in order to assist with stamping out illegal trade.
True, shebeen owners should not be hounded to the exclusion of other and bigger liquor traders, but then they should also not want to petition to be treated suis generis. This is the lesson which all, including ministers, squandering taxpayers’ money at courts, on hopeless cases ought to learn. Police and even officials of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (I should know), are empowered to enforce all the provisions of the Act to the letter spirit as envisaged by the legislator.
The misuse of alcohol remains a national problem and members of parliament are presently debating a motion on how best to regulate what appears to be an easy access to alcohol by all and sundry.
Suggestions have been made from making only a quart of beer per family per day to putting a curb on the trading hours. Whilst the law and the licenses issued prescribe trading hours, it is the combination of strict adherence to the law but finally responsibility of families, and not the State, to ensure the nation does not drown in liquor. In the meantime, the Police must continue to enforce all the provisions of the Liquor Act of 1998 without anyone, including the responsible minister, corrupting them. Prosit!