Shebeens Continue Operating Near Schools

A cabinet resolution to amend the Liquor Act to outlaw the operating of shebeens near schools remains a pipedream, largely because the Ministry of Education is not mandated to enforce such directive.

As one of the recommendations emanating from the 2011 National Conference on Education, the Ministry of Education together with other stakeholders took a stance on passing laws to prohibit shebeens being established in close proximity to schools, so that learners could have a more conducive learning environment.

At the time, “Cabinet agreed with great concern that drastic and urgent measures should be taken to reduce the abuse of alcohol by teachers and learners, to limit the disturbance by customers of shebeens, and the loud music, and to enforce strict adherence to the laws regarding the sale of alcohol to underage learners,” said a government notice on the cabinet resolution.

But four years down the line, teachers and parents countrywide continue to complain of noisy shebeens close to schools that expose vulnerable learners to social ills such as alcohol and drug abuse.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Alfred Ilukena, said the ministry was still waiting for legal aice from the Ministry of Justice.

Surprisingly, the Chief of Law Reform in the Ministry of Justice, Tousy Namiseb, yesterday said he was unaware of such submission from the Ministry of Education regarding Liquor Licence Act reforms.

“We have really not been working on the Liquor Act or its regulations or issues you talked of. I am the secretary of the commission and I honestly do not know anything like that,” he said.

Ilukena said it is a social issue and the education ministry alone cannot implement such directive due to institutional limitations.

“You close a shebeen then you cause havoc within the same community, since some are surviving from those shebeens. There are a number of issues involved that is why it is a very sensitive matter. It calls for an understanding from us and the community because the schools are where their kids go and learn. They also need to play their part in ensuring that they don’t allow such shebeens to be constructed near schools. We are not the law enforcement agent. We go according to the provision of laws of the nation,” he noted.

He said shebeens and the issuance of liquor licences do not fall under his ministry.

“So there is a whole lot of coordination from the Ministry of Justice and the Regional and Local Government Act has to be looked at. There are a number of issues that are involved which make it difficult to be achieved overnight, but we understand 2011 is a long time back. For us as a ministry, I am looking at our progress we have made under ‘Resolution 3.2 – shebeen construction close to schools’. We have those resolutions captured, we have big A3 paper that we use every time we do something, we close-check to see how far we are with the resolutions,” he stated.

“That is why I was saying it is a complicated issue, because this will include the reviewing of the Liquor Licence Act to ensure that liquor licences when awarded are not for businesses close to school premises,” he said.

He also revealed the education ministry has been aised to collaborate with the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development to address the issue.

“Once those revisions are done – if the Liquor Licence Act is reformed and we are in conformity with other Acts, because you touch one it has implications on others. That is law reform – because they can see other things we can’t see, so it’s a holistic approach,” he said.

Source : New Era