Wednesday, July 6, 2022

“Rampant drinking is a problem in Botswana”

A recent column in the news by MP Saleshando was entitled “Regulations won’t Stop Drinking”

MP Saleshando seemed to be focused on making a point that “the revised Liquor Act cannot stop the rampant drinking culture in the country”. I am quite glad to see him acknowledge that there is a rampant drinking culture in Botswana.

I don’t believe that any regulations are intended to be final solutions to anything. Driving regulations have not solved the rampant irresponsible driving culture in Botswana. Immigration regulations have not solved the influx of Zimbabweans seeking escape from the terrible effects of their country’s lack of food, jobs, and 100,000% inflation.

Without the above mentioned regulations, and most of the others in place, the Government would have no legal means of dealing with irresponsible drivers, or illegal immigrants, or illegal behaviors and practices of any kind.

The revised Liquor Act, as I understand it, is intended to provide the Government with more realistic measures and practices of Alcohol Sales, Distribution, and Use by Botswana Citizens, by providing clear understanding of what will currently be legal and illegal. The new Act also revises fines and punishments for violations of its said measures and practices. Liquor regulations are provided to the citizens and those in the Alcohol business to indicate how they can use, sell and/or distribute Alcohol the Drug and stay out of trouble by not violating the New Liquor Act.

Mr. Saleshando’s remark about the UK and other developed countries shifting towards unrestricted Alcohol sale is wrong.

Most countries that have tried that are moving strongly and quickly ÔÇô the other direction because of the damage done to youth and to the drinking segment of the population in general. Check current efforts in the UK, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand.

Saleshando said “the Minister of Trade did not benchmark Botswana’s (regulations) against any country when he presented them to parliament. These regulations are only present in some Muslim countries where there are limits to civil liberties.”

The UK’s Licensing Act of 2003 says the following:

“Licensing Act 2003
Licensing Authorities (usually local authorities) are responsible for licensing the sale and supply of alcohol, the provision of regulated entertainment and the provision of late night refreshment in England and Wales. If you are carrying on any of these activities, you will need the relevant authorization and should speak to your local licensing authority.”
Mr. Saleshando also said some things I agree with. He said “shebeen outlets were not regulated”. This is definitely a problem that members of parliament, like himself, will have to address.

In another instance of a rampant drinking culture, there is a recent article, in another paper, about a Gaborone Chibuku outlet called Ko Foleteng where, along with Chibuku, one can buy Dagga to smoke. The article also indicated that there were women available for sale. This is a property, according to the reporter writing the article, that is owned by the Gaborone City Council. If true, then that is outrageous and most certainly contributes to the rampant drinking culture.

That article and the article by Mr. Saleshando were very disappointing to me as one who has laboured in this country for 6 years trying to be of help to the many alcoholics (at no cost to them or the country) who call each week seeking help. In 6 years, there have been many Government Offices who received free training for their employees regarding the issue of Alcohol and Aids.

It’s very evident to me (with 33 years of experience) that the Government of Botswana, particularly the Ministry of Health, has left the alcoholic of Botswana to drink him or herself to death as several have done in the past month.

I do hope that the ascent to the Presidency by Vice President Ian Khama will strike a new note of caring about the damage the Drug Alcohol and the illness of Alcoholism are doing to the country.

*Jim MacDonald is a Francistown based Addiction Specialist


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