Traditional beer sellers in Francistown have pleaded with government to extend the current grace period before implementing the new traditional beer regulations which are to take effect at the beginning of next month (July).
The regulations, which have been received with mixed feelings by the traditional beer sellers countrywide, will see the banning of the sale of traditional brew from homesteads to depots and other regulated spots.
The sellers are accusing government of seeking to implement the regulations before resolving the issue of land. They have further pointed an accusing finger at government over poor consultation before introducing the new regulations.
In a consultative meeting with the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dorcas Makgatho-Malesu, in Francistown on Friday, the beer traders expressed fear over the implementation of the regulations, saying that if the regulations are implemented, they will have to close their businesses as the government had not come up with alternative venues from where they will be operating from.
“We want to plead with government to extend the grace period pending the relocation process because there is still a challenge of land availability. The month of July is too soon for the regulations to be implemented,” said one Ngaka Koboe, a shebeen owner.
Koboe said that government should take into consideration the fact that if the new regulations are implemented next month, hundreds of traditional beer operators will be left stranded. He fears that the sellers will be exposed to poverty as they will be deprived of their only source of income.
“The implementation of the new regulations will also negatively impact on Kgalagadi Breweries Limited, as it will lose a substantial portion of its market. The company’s profits will plummet and it will be forced to lay off some of its employees,” said an emotionally charged Koboe.
Selinah Khunou, who is also a traditional beer seller, begged the government to re-consider the new trade hours included in the new regulations. She said the newly introduced operating hours of 2pm to 10pm during the weekdays and 12 pm to 11 pm during the weekends is far too short for them to be able to make profit.
“Traditional beer like Chibuku does not have much profit; we need ample time to sell to be able to make a bit of profit. I propose that the government should at least increase the operating hours,” she pleaded.
While the sellers are not totally against the new rules, their gripe is primarily centred on the relocation issue, which by all indications, is going to take longer to resolve than anticipated. It is in that regard that they pleaded with government to grant them a grace period extension before the regulations are effected.
In her reply to the comments, Malesu advised them to exploit other business ideas apart from selling traditional beer which could give them more profits. She said that government has a number of poverty eradication programmes which Batswana can take advantage of.
She, however, promised to consult and engage other stakeholders on issues of extension of the grace period before the new rules are implemented.
“The main issue here is the extension of the grace period and the new operating hours in the new regulations. I will have to discuss with my colleagues in cabinet and come back to you as soon as possible,” she said.