MEMBERS of Parliament have questioned the government’s commitment to stemming the sale of illicit alcohol and the police’s capacity to deal with perpetrators at a time many youths are resorting to drug abuse in the face of the deteriorating economy.
This includes a cheap illicit beer known as kambwa which is popular in many high-density suburbs and rural growth points.
The cheap brew is a combination of ethanol concentrate diluted with generous volumes of water and then mixed with a brown colourant mainly from baking products.
During a question-and-answer session in the National Assembly which featured only Zanu PF MPs after the suspension and recall of CCC MPs, Tendai Nyabani of Rushinga queried the government’s political will to deal with those responsible for the sale of illicit booze.
“With reference to drugs and substance abuse in communal lands, the ordinary man believes it is the abuse of dagga. What is meant by ‘substance’? What are you referring to when you say substance? I have brought a sample of this type of beer and no one is being arrested. I was going to make reference to it when debating the State of the Nation Address by His Excellency, the President. This beer has 65% alcohol. It is being sold for US$1 for three,” said Nyabani.
Consumers of this beer exhibit signs of drunkeness, but with wilder intensity.
They can barely stand, while typically staggering and eventually falling, sustaining injury and soiling their clothes.
Nyabani says the illicit it brew has taken men away from their families. All culprits should be brought to book.
“Wives have become widows when husbands are still alive due to consumption of this substance. If these substances area a menace to the community, we would want to make sure that tomorrow all retailers supplying them are arrested because we do not want anybody to use this substance. If they are not arrested tomorrow, it means you are condoning the sale of this substance,” said Nyabani.
Leader of government business in the National Assembly and Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi concurred with Nyabani, but said action was being taken.
“I would like to thank Honourable Nyabani for the rather lengthy question which is more of an explanation. I said this issue is spreading across the country and it may affect the young people. He has said that men are no longer behaving like men because they have lost their virility to this substance commonly referred to as ‘kambwa’,” said Ziyambi.
He added that as part of the solution to the problem, police will be taking action on all those selling alcohol without a licence.
“The other issue that has now become a cause of concern is that we now have shops that are sprouting up, some people are using the boot of their vehicles and some of them no longer know that for one to sell beer, they must have a liquor licence. Beer is now being sold everywhere. The ministry of Home Affairs is now seized with moving around to ensure that if it is a grocery shop, any retailer selling liquor must be arrested. If you are selling liquor, you must be selling liquor that is legal, because some people are smuggling some types of alcohol through our borders,” Ziyambi said.
In central Harare, many big buildings have closed shop, making way for “shopping malls” that are basically small cubicles allocated to small traders. Liquor shops are common in the cubicles.
Although the vendors are publicly displaying their wares, the general public has lost confidence in the political will of the police to deal with culprits.
Police however say since January 2023 over 4 000 culprits have been arrested, sent to court or fined.
Shamva South legislator Joseph Mapiki expressed concern over corruption in the police service.
He said those arrested are often back on the streets the following day.
“The problem that we have is that if people are arrested today, they are released tomorrow morning. The committee that has been put in place should look into the issue whether government departments are doing their work diligently because some people are arrested today only to be released the following day. So, they may be in the habit of bribing police details,” said Mapiki.
Ziyambi said bail was a basic right, but the government will work on specialised courts to deal with such issues.
“On the question that people are being arrested today and only to be released tomorrow, our constitution says that once a person has been arrested, they have a right to be allowed on bail. They can give surety or pay a deposit so that they can be tried whilst on bail, it is part of our laws. It is permissible. The problem is that the person who has caused this person’s arrest is now afraid to come forth. Yes, we are still looking into it and we would want to come up with specialised courts that will deal with, such as issues of those that deal in illicit drugs so that their cases are fast tracked,” said.