Let’s talk about alcohol shall we?

Jackie Wilson Asheeke

A person drinking a beer could be arrested in Namibia. And yet, people with masks that only cover their mouths and not their noses (or wearing no masks at all), walk around like everything is fine. That is ridiculous.

I submit that a gin and tonic (with extra ice, extra lemon, a twist of lime and two maraschino cherries) does not spread COVID-19. I am no scientist, but I feel pretty confident in my assertion.

Someone should read the history of Prohibition in the USA in the 1930s. It didn’t work and the idea was dropped. In fact, it leads to the worse gangsters, crime, murders, illegal speakeasies, prostitution, bootleggers, drug abuse, bank robberies and shoot outs, ever.

Even under apartheid, the whites banned blacks from ‘their’ bars and uselessly tried to stop people from enjoying a drink. That gave rise to the plethora of homebrews that still exist and are not ever going away. Like night follows day, where there is fruit or grain, there is a bangin’ alcoholic beverage soon after.

The vast majority of people drink responsibly and are not alcoholics. Reality check: banning overt alcohol consumption and sales does not prevent/cure the disease of alcoholism. Banning alcohol is an inappropriate, one-size-fits-all, apartheid era ‘solution’ with puritanical overtones. It is the wrong cure. Imagine having a broken nose so you put a plaster on your knee to fix it.

Alcohol is not the root of all evil. Let us get over that hyper-conservative, über religious, dogmatic claptrap. I think that banning sales on Sundays and holidays is a joke also. That is inconsistent in a secular country.

Like most of you, I have been compliant with all the regulations promulgated since the first declarations. At the time, I saw the strictures against the sale or consumption of alcohol; I wondered about it, but I trusted that greater minds than mine knew what they were about. Now, I’m not so sure.

Our decision-makers are following South Africa or some foreign consultant, not making Namibian decisions. We are posturing for a pat on the head from rich countries and doing whatever they ‘recommend’ rather than examining what works for impoverished, sparsely populated Namibia.

Aside from financially damaging liquor stores and their employees, local beer and wine producers or spirits importers, what is the real outcome of banning all sales and consumption of alcohol? Somebody help me…I don’t see it. Do we have only 16 virus cases in Namibia because we aren’t buying Rosé wine or Tafel Lager? I don’t think so.

People who have the disease of alcoholism will find their drug of choice (or substitute another), liquor ban or not.

People who drink to cover underlying psychological issues are not ‘healed’ by a COVID-19 liquor sales ban. Sadness, loneliness, heartbreak and feelings of inadequacy remain, ban or no ban.

People who over-imbibe to be macho, careless, irresponsible and reckless are still prone to such stupidity, whether liquor can be sold or not.

Nothing is being done to address why those who abuse alcohol do so. Why people are so sad; why people are so lonely or hopeless or miserable? Alcoholism and depression will never be completely eliminated with or without a ban on liquor sales.

Sorry to say this, but – whatever temporary relief the neighbours of shebeens are experiencing, is an illusion. Those shebeens will be open again soon. The late hour noise, men urinating in public, drunkards on the streets, bar fights, and other outrages will start once again.

Where is the public campaign for laws banning shebeens from residential areas? Let’s keep such businesses away from schools, churches and community centres. Now, that is a permanent solution that makes sense.

I read the comments on social media and in the newspapers about the decline in alcohol-related car accidents. But is the alcohol ban responsible for this or was the lockdown that kept people off the roads responsible?

Apparently, street violence has declined since the ban on liquor stores, bars and shebeens. But, is that because of the lockdown and increased police patrols or because alcohol sales are banned?

Domestic violence incidents have increased in the lockdown period and that is WITH the ban on liquor sales and consumption in place.

Finally, I find it hypocritical that those telling others not to drink have home bars and liquor stocks. They probably have an evening cocktail, cold beer or cabernet-sauvignon with their dinner any time they want.

Lift the ban on alcohol sales from liquor stores at least (restrict the quantities that can be bought for now). I am of legal drinking age and I enjoy an ice-cold Windhoek Light once and a while. Let’s re-open, calm down, regain our perspective and move on.

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