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Shebeens Sprout in Vic Falls Despite Risk of COVID-19

Closure of bar and bottle store operators in Victoria Falls has resulted in backyard shebeens despite risk of COVID-19. Image by AllAfrica

BY BOKANI MUDIMBA | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | DEC 10, 2020

Imbibers have had their usual social spaces in the form of bars and nightclubs closed because of the pandemic. Bar owners in Victoria Falls are allegedly operating unlicensed shebeens from their homes, an accusation they deny. Either way this has robbed the community of a peaceful environment and heightened risks of the spread of COVID-19.

VICTORIA FALLS (The Citizen Bulletin) – Shebeens have sprouted 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.

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 the last 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, where as of November 30 cases had risen to 9 950 and 276 deaths.

Judith Sibanda of Mkhosana whose husband was locked down outside the country says she started selling beer at her rented one room to raise money for 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. 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,” Sibanda says.

She says she doesn’t allow her clients to drink on site as a way of beating law enforcement agents.

“They buy and go. Only a few drink inside my room and this is usually my friends and relatives otherwise everyone else buys and goes to drink elsewhere.”
Judith Sibanda, mother of four minor children

A random check around Mkhosana and Chinotimba high density suburbs shows that there could be around 40 houses that are selling beer.

Before lockdown there were two popular shebeens known as KwaMai Kazembe in Mkhosana and MaJele in Chinotimba where people frequented.

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, Tarven, Old Bar, Mukali Bar and G Sport as a result of national lockdown that was affected in March left beer lovers with no drinking spots.

Unconfirmed reports show that some bar operators are the ones running the shebeens.

However, Mukali Bar owner Silas Maligo has refuted the claims saying he is abiding by the lockdown although residents say people have been buying beer 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. 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 tuck shop but we don’t allow beer in the yard.”
Mufudzi Nyoni, former bar operator

Most of the shebeens open all night long with music played at high volume.

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. 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 there,” a resident whose house is surrounded by three shebeens says.

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.

ALSO READ: Victoria Falls Now Safe for Travellers — Report

Christopher Lyuhya aged 37 and wife Jacqueline Nhidza aged 36 severely assaulted Tendai Zengeni at their house number 1326 Chinotimba where they were operating a shebeen leaving him for dead. The couple is in custody for attempted murder waiting for 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. Police will not hesitate to arrest any citizens that break the law as bars remain prohibited while public drinking is also an offence,” Makonese says.

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