KEETMANSHOOP: “It’s Christmas. I don’t know from whom, but it’s a present.”

By Patience Smith

So said a grinning young man while happily stacking cans of beer he retrieved from the scene where a huge truck overturned some 70 km out of Keetmanshoop on the Grünau road. The accident happened around 11h30 on Tuesday.

The driver of the WP Transport truck told Nampa that he was en route to Bloemfontein from Windhoek to deliver N.dollars 350 000 worth of Windhoek Draught six-pack cans. The beer is brewed by Namibia Breweries.

Michael Fortuin, 56, said he noticed in his rear-view mirror that the two heavy trailers were pulling to the left off the road; it touched ground and he tried to pull it back slowly, but by then it was too late – the truck overturned landing on its back, wheels in the air.

“It is a miracle that I managed to come out of there,” he said, pointing to his smashed windscreen and upturned driver’s seat. Fortuin, from Khomasdal in Windhoek, credits the seatbelt he was wearing for holding him in the chair in the front cabin until he could free himself and climb out of the vehicle.

Merely 10 minutes later, while he was still assessing the damage and whistling at the amount of beer seeping onto the road and beyond, his face still bloodied from some cuts he sustained, the first looters arrived.

While Fortuin is amazed and grateful to be alive, he is shocked and dismayed at the lack of care and greediness displayed by fellow human beings who stumbled upon the beer.

“I am quite disappointed in the people here. No one cares or even offered me a little water. They just started loading; they even tapped diesel from the truck into big cans,” said Fortuin, who has been driving trucks for 30 years.

More than an hour later, the scene was littered with thousands of beer cans, more than a hundred looters and over 60 cars and trucks. People hastily jumped out of their vehicles and ran to collect beer. Young men lined up to toss beer to each other, packing it in waiting pick-up trucks.

The Namibian Police Force and security personnel stood around assessing the accident, unable to stop the looting. The majority of people traveling in both directions halted and loaded beer into their cars.

“Hallo, where can I take, where can I take? Anywhere?” asked one young man as he rushed out of a car, excitedly making his way towards the strewn beer. A police officer was forced to intervene when a primary school child still in uniform picked up two six-packs.

When this reporter asked Andrew Hingwopo, 27, who was diligently stacking his massive loot for a shebeen-owner friend, how he felt about what had happened, without a glance he said: “Not good, not good, it’s bad for the driver.”

And the free beer?

“Not good also, there’s no way it can be good,” he laughed while loading more beer.

The Keetmanshoop State Hospital ambulance arrived two hours after the accident to attend to Fortuin. A nurse said they only received a call an hour after the accident occurred.

Tow-in service, Rassies Tow-In, arrived long before the police and the medical services, but struggled to do their job on the congested road.

For many of the delighted looters, the joy was short-lived.

The police set up a road-block a few kilometres into Keetmanshoop, pulling cars off the road and confiscating the beer.

“Imagine the next two days of problems for us in this town with all this beer,” one officer remarked.

Some men threatened not to offload the beer, claiming the loot was insured. One claimed that police officers were also seen collecting beer. Another accused the police of wanting the alcohol for their own consumption.

The confiscated beer will now be destroyed.

Crime Investigations Coordinator of the //Karas Region, Deputy Commissioner Rudolf Isaak told Nampa that WP Transport had given the go-ahead for the beer to be destroyed.

“This beer does not belong to the looters; they were stealing something that belonged to someone else,” Isaak stated firmly.

The police will decide in due course on the exact details of when, how and where the beer will reach its final obliteration.