Mbabane: For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil,” the Bible reads in Proverbs 5:3. So help me God and let me not resemble a forbidden woman as I am trying to reason with our government. One must start by saying, after a brief ray of hope, we now have every reason to be terrified again, thanks to government for getting it so horribly wrong.
One sometimes has to wonder whether all the sufferings was worth it-the forced detentions in our places we call home, loss of liberties, an economy off the proverbial cliff, with unemployment soaring to over 30 per cent, people with nothing to begin with and reduced to even more penury. All of these for what?
The lockdown was supposed to give us a breather to prepare for the brewing storms ahead. But to all intents and purposes, we seem unprepared. The Covid-19 infection rate is expected to worsen and roar ahead inexorably, as if it’s on steroids. In his latest statement,
Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini said experts fear the worst. Night after night, figures of new infections are thrown at us by Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi. What are we supposed to do or make of them except to be bewildered and depressed? Despite this, we wait for them like junkies yearning after their daily fix.
We always hanker for hearing the number of new positive cases, deaths and recoveries. Of late, we are told the number of infections is dwindling but without clear explanation for that trend. Yes, it looks promising, but one is disturbed when hearing that the situation might worsen, going forward hence the extended ban of alcohol production and distribution by another month. Government believes this is one of the most effective ways to contain the spread of the pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, I am one of those who believe so despite that I do take one or two after a long day.
I also believe the protection of lives outweighs the financial gains. I am not oblivious that the ban has turned over 21 000 of our brothers and sisters who were employed by businesses in the alcohol industry value chain to vagabonds overnight. Sad! Eswatini Beverages employees are living in perpetual fear of losing their jobs and they have the reasons to fear because the situation is not looking good and there is no ray of hope. The second most lucrative industry after sugar is left to die a natural death because of a fallacious believe that it for a good purpose of saving lives. That’s deceptive! I strongly believe so, and that what alcohol lovers believe. These people have never ever felt the pinch of the ban in as far as imbibing alcohol is concerned. Ever the first ban, emaSwati have never ceased drinking booze.
In fact, the ban gave them an opportunity to discover their brewing skills. That was big positive that was presented by the alcohol ban which continues to do. They were brewing every juicy fruit, from grapefruits, grapes, apples to oranges, pineapple and many more. Their wells never dried up as anticipated by government, but revenue did.
Other than the rapid surge in home-made brews, smuggling of alcohol from neighbouring Mozambique was seen picking up, something which crippled our economy and the black market continue to thrive.
Interestingly, analysis shows that new cases dwindled when alcohol sale was lifted, which suggest people learnt to drink responsibly and were observing the precautionary measures recommended by WHO for the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus.
Another sad reality is, Eswatini could take years to dismantle the criminal networks that sprung up and benefited from a ban on the sale of alcohol during the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
Truth be told, the ban, aimed at managing the health impact of the pandemic, has allowed illegal operators to gain a foothold in the market.
Many illegal and criminal operators have now “marketed themselves to previously honest drinkers. They are now embedded in the supply chain and it will take years to reverse the impact.
Liquor remained readily available through the black market from when the ban first kicked in with the nation’s coronavirus lockdown on April. Producers and retailers complained the restrictions have resulted in thousands of job losses and encouraged illegal trade.
With this information at hand, it is clear that government is killing the liquor industry and allowing the black market to boom and the ripple effects could be enormous in the long run as people will continue drinking unhealthy beer and that could result in the same problem of adding an unnecessary burden on health facilities. And that clearly shows that there is a bunch of men and women who are, as a collective catapulting our already struggling economy to the doldrums.
Painstakingly, government must review this alcohol ban and open the industry but under strict guidelines. This is the only way we can slowly revive this sector and drive the ‘Mozambican Soldiers’ to the sea, because as we speak, drunkards and criminals are the big winners while government is the biggest loser.