Shebeen owners have pleaded with government to lift the restrictions on the sale of alcohol to help save their businesses. During a peaceful demonstration and handover of petitions at governors’ offices in various regions on Friday, the protesters gave government an ultimatum of five days to revise the current regulations, and to permit alcohol outlets to operate from 10h00 to 21h00 between Monday and Saturday, and from 14h00 to 20h00 on Sundays.
They further demand that government allows the onsite consumption of alcohol. In the current regulations to curb the spread of Covid-19, the sale of liquor remains restricted on takeaway basis from 09h00 to 18h00 between Monday to Friday, except for hospitality establishments that have resident guests.
The sale of alcohol remains prohibited from Saturday to Sunday, except at restaurants, guesthouses and similar establishments with resident guests. President Hage Geingob said during the last Covid-19 briefing that the onsite consumption of alcohol is allowed with meals at restaurants. “This business sector has been very patient and has been compliant, and thus requests the government to urgently revise the current business operation times. The Namibian Local Business Community (NLBC) wants feedback within five working days from the date of handing in the petition,” demanded the protestors in the Oshana, Omusati and Ohangwena regions.
The business community said it is in full support of the government’s efforts to combat the devastating pandemic. In the same vein, while their sector also contributes to the growth of the economy and job creation, unemployment in their sector has skyrocketed because businesses have not been able to sustain themselves during this time.
Equally, the business community stated that they have faced financial constraints in honouring the loans they had received from banking institutions to set up their businesses. As a result of not earning sustainable income, some businesses have closed down, others had properties repossessed, while some were blacklisted for non-payment.
“The NLBC pleads with our government to engage the banking regulatory authority as well as all commercial banking institutions to grant the business community a payment holiday or relief for at least six months to a year. The same payment relief is requested from municipalities and any other local authorities where rates and taxes’ payments are done,” urged the protesters.
The business community furthermore requested government to put in stringent measures to regulate the smuggling of illegal fuel from Angola. They claim that illegal fuel has slowed down the sale of fuel in Namibia, further impacting those in that sector.
“While we are aware of the dreaded killer pandemic, we are equally happy that other sectors have been allowed to start operating in order to save the economy from total collapse,” said the group’s representative in Oshikoto, Sakeus Namuhuya.
“This petition must not be seen as a deliberate attempt to defy Covid-19 regulations, but it’s rather because the business community is on the verge of total economic shutdown. Our assets are being repossessed due to non-payments as retrenchments have become the order of the day, thus exacerbating the unemployment rate,” stressed Namuhuya.
The petition was received by Oshikoto Regional Council chairperson Samuel Shivute. Festus Shilimela, the vice chairperson of the Namibia Shebeen and Bar Owners Association’s Keetmanshoop branch, said they felt aggrieved about not being allowed to serve alcohol for onsite consumption at their establishments whilst gambling houses and restaurants can do so.
The shebeen owner said they are happy that other sectors have been allowed to start operating their respective business activities in order to save the economy from catastrophic collapse.
“This petition must be seen rather as an effort to sustain the continued operation of our bars and shebeens from which we make a living,” he stated. “The sad part is that we are now forced to retrench our employees due to a lack of generating income, leaving these people who also support their children and families on the street,” said Shilimela. Thomas Nikodemus (also known as Dollar Six), is another shebeen owner who reasoned that they can only pay their employees half of their monthly salaries as they can only work limited hours now.
“Another challenge is that of most of our customers work from Monday till Friday, and on Saturday want to socialise and relax with alcoholic beverages afterwards. But they cannot do so at this stage due to the restrictions enforced,” he added.
Nikodemus said this has led to a loss of income for bar and shebeen owners, forcing customers to visit other illegal avenues to get booze.
Receiving the petition on behalf of //Kharas governor Aletha Frederick, her personal assistant Adnaan Boois assured the group that it will be forwarded to the relevant authorities, whilst feedback can be expected soonest.
Caption (Protestors jpg) Open up… Shebeen owners are pleading with government to reconsider restrictions on the sale of alcohol.