Shebeens are sprouting around Victoria Falls with many houses being turned into drinking spots in the absence of bars and nightclubs that were closed because of the Covid-19 lockdown.
BY BOKANI MUDIMBA
Shebeen operators, both men and women, and beer lovers are oblivious of the Covid-19 precautions as patrons usually gather for the “wise waters” albeit without masks or practicing social distancing.
Bars and nightspots remain closed and the government stated in a recent post-cabinet briefing that lockdown and curfew measures still exist, adding that where there is non-compliance, the law enforcement agents will not hesitate to enforce the penalties prescribed.
The government recently intensified enforcement of the lockdown measures following a new surge in Covid-19 cases.
Judith Sibanda of Mkhosana, whose husband is based in South Africa and has not been able to return home due to the lockdown restrictions, said she started selling beer at her rented one room to raise money for the upkeep of her four minor children.
“I was working at a backyard restaurant, which was closed because of the lockdown and has not opened to date,” Sibanda said.
“I decided to sell beer at home because that was the only way I could make money.
“We order from Delta, but sometimes we have challenges because they want licences for one to buy beer in bulk so we pay bar operators to order for us using their licences.”
She does not allow her clients to drink on site as a way of evading law enforcement agents.
“They buy and go,” Sibanda said. “Only a few drink inside my room and this is usually my friends and relatives, otherwise everyone else buys and goes to drink elsewhere.”
A random check around Mkhosana and Chinotimba
high-density suburbs showed that there could be around 40 houses that are selling beer.
Before the lockdown, there were two popular shebeens known as KwaMai Kazembe in Mkhosana and MaJele in Chinotimba.
The closure of public places such as Shoestrings Backpackers, Army Chalets, Rest Camp, Invuvu, The Vic Falls Club, Grid Bar, KoPanashe, Zambezi House, Boat Club, The River Brewery, Brown Sugar, Comfort Pub and Grill, Sports Bar, Tavern, Old Bar, Mukali Bar and G Sport as a result of the national lockdown that was effected in March left beer lovers with no drinking spots.
Unconfirmed reports say some bar operators are the ones running the shebeens.
However, Mukali Bar owner Silas Maligo refuted the claims, saying he was abiding by the lockdown regulations although residents say people have been buying alcohol from his bar.
Mufudzi Nyoni, who used to rent Dentola Sports Bar, defended a drinking spot at his house in Mkhosana, saying it was not a shebeen but only a sports and leisure centre for people to play snooker.
“I don’t sell beer here. I only saw an opportunity to make money following the closure of bars and nightclubs,” Nyoni said.
“People used to play snooker at Dentola Sports Bar so I brought the pool table here.
“Those who want soft drinks buy from a nearby tuckshop, but we don’t allow beer in the yard.”
Most of the shebeens open all night long and clients are entertained with loud music.
Residents have expressed concern about the noise, which they say disturbs their peace.
This is despite the presence of police and soldiers, who are deployed to enforce lockdown regulations.
Sometimes patrons fight at the drinking spots.
“We are tired of noise day and night,” said a Chinotimba resident whose house is surrounded by three shebeens.
“It is worse during weekends as they make noise until morning. We can’t even sleep because of noise.
“They also urinate in our yards and gardens and we have to clean their mess which is a health risk for us.
“We have raised the issue with the police, but nothing has happened as they also drink from there.”
A couple was recently arrested and charged with attempted murder after allegedly stabbing a patron 32 times with a screw driver after he allegedly failed to pay for beer.
Christopher Lyuhya, aged 37, and wife Jacqueline Nhidza, aged 36, severely assaulted Tendai Zengeni at their house in Chinotimba where they were operating a shebeen, leaving him for dead.
The couple is in custody for attempted murder awaiting trial.
Matabeleland North police spokesperson Chief Inspector Siphiwe Makonese says police are aware of the presence of illegal drinking spots and occasionally carry out raids.
“We sometimes raid houses that sell beer and we will constantly remind citizens that we are still on lockdown,” Makonese said.
“Police will not hesitate to arrest any citizens that break the law as bars remain prohibited while public drinking is also an offence.”
l This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, nonprofit hyperlocal news outlet serving audiences in and around Matabeleland.