Thursday, March 4, 2021

Chibuku depots flourish in residential areas

It is Saturday afternoon, and the chirping birds compete with loud music, cars and the chit chat of people along the busy Moselewapula shopping complex in Woodhall, Lobatse.

Behind the packed Moselewapula bar, rowdy men and women whistle, sing and dance as they queue at the Chibuku kiosk to buy their favourite brew-in-a-box.

Young girls draped in skimpy tops, shorts and skirts sashay to the depot, cigarettes dangling from their hands, fluttering their eyelids and pouting their lips at the tipsy men.

There are grown women here too, with large juicy breasts hanging bra-less, dressed in hurriedly worn dresses and skirts, hair unkempt or covered in doeks, cheap sandals on their feet. With a practiced ease, they down the brew in two goes before discarding the boxes.

The men share a box; others hold on to theirs, as if scared that someone will pinch it. At regular intervals they take the box to their lips and take large gulps, their throats dancing as the brew travels down to their stomachs.

By evening, the mood has intensified. Many more cars are parked around the area, more people line into the kiosk with more sprawled on the ground, while others dance and sing along to the booming music box.

Young women are dragged this way and that by red-eyed men. Occasionally verbal spats and the occasional spurt of violence arise. This rumbling noise goes on until 10.30pm in the evening when the music is stopped and the kiosk closed.

The revelers are reluctant to leave and hang around until way after bars’ closing time, shortly after 11pm. Only then do they stagger to their cars, or make their way home into the dark, singing hopelessly off-key, or shouting mindless chatter to one another.

It is a regular occurrence at the Moselewapula depot, which opened for operation late last year. The depot has gained popularity and is frequented by many who enjoy chibuku ÔÇô across age, gender and class.

This is despite newly established traditional beer regulations that stipulate that Chibuku depots must be situated at least 500 meters from schools, churches and main roads.

Lying in close proximity, 200 meters away, is Bothakga primary school. School children from surrounding Woodhall and Pitikwe residential locations pass here daily on their way home.
About 200 metres away is a main road that links to the A1 at the Sbrana hospital T-junction. There are homes directly opposite the depot. Revelers park their cars in front of the yards, sometimes closing off the occupants of the yards.

Since there are no toilets, they relive themselves in the nearby fences and hedges. And they leave empty boxes of the Chibuku shake-shake brew scattered around.

One irate resident, who refused to be named, points out that the depot has brought more problems.
“We were never consulted about this depot. We just saw Chibuku vehicles out of the blue and before long the kiosk was operating. It’s opened daily from 2pm until late at night, so you can imagine what a head ache it’s causing. These people make noise, are rowdy and leave their boxes scattered everywhere. This is not good. We are more susceptible to crime and our women and girls aren’t safe because the men who sit there harass passers-by.”

Another resident, who identifies herself as Boikanyo, explains that they are aware that living next to shops means that there is noise but this is out of hand.

“We didn’t have a problem with the bar before, because it’s facing a different direction and what goes on in front doesn’t affect us. However, the depot is as good as in our yards. Did they not say that these shake-shake depots shouldn’t be in residential areas? We have small children who see these drunks and model their behaviour. It’s also a health hazard because it’s always dirty in this area. The smell of Chibuku is also pungent. This is a nightmare in broad daylight,” she fumes.

Although the residents of the street have spoken about approaching the council to complain about this depot, they haven’t taken action as yet. One concerned resident who lives about 400 meters from the depot stressed that the council would reject this action.

“Only the bar owner benefits from this; alcoholism doesn’t help anyone. We should be discouraging the consumption of these brews instead of making it easier for people to get drunk,” he asserts angrily. “Some come here at lunch time and wait for the depot to open, in order to get drunk. The situation is sad as many of them need to be rehabilitated. Alcohol has destroyed many of our people.

I’m disappointed that the area councilor hasn’t intervened and that despite the environmental risk, and the chances of increased crime and misbehaviour, the council still approved this license. They should find them space far away from our children and people who don’t drink these smelly shake-shakes.”

The owner of the bar, identified as Mo-India, refused to comment on the issue. One employee said that there was no space for Chibuku depots so they decided to just operate it from the back of the popular bar.

“Obviously many people are inconvenienced by this depot, especially nearby residents, school children and passers-by but it’s a business. The owner applied for a trading licence and it was approved. It would only take the intervention of council to shut it down and even then, they must provide an alternative place for operation,” she said.

Lobatse mayor Caroline Lesang, who is also Councilor for Delta ward, said last year that the Lobatse Town Council was struggling to find space for Chibuku depots.

She said most license traders are reluctant to sell brews on their business premises. In 2011, government approved new regulations regarding the sale of Chibuku, khadi and other traditional brews. These should not to be sold on residential premises.

But what’s the difference between residential premises and areas too near residences, as in the case of Moselewapula bar?

The issue of land has cropped up often since the new regulations were instituted and Chibuku traders had their businesses shut down.

KBL’s Opaque Divisions Outlet attempted to save the day through it’s development fund, where it masterminded a plan to allocate P 10 million to assist Chibuku sellers start shop.

However, lack of suitable land dashed the hopes of Chibuku retailers relying on this plan.

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