Compliance an escalating problem among Batswana
“The situation is not improving”- Motube
Between the month of May to June 9th there have been 17 949 arrests in relation to covid compliance. A whooping 9 891 arrests were strictly for failure to wear a face mask while another 5394 were arrested and charged for unlawful movement during curfew hours. Another 958 were arrested for alcohol related crimes inclusive of the violation of sale conditions as well mishandling of liquor sales and while 656 were charged with unlawful gathering of not more than two persons.
According to Assistant Commissioner also Botswana Police Service (BPS) Spokesperson Dipheko Motube, the situation is not improving countrywide with the highest number of arrests being within the greater Gaborone zone. “People don’t wear masks for the sake of their own health but rather for fear of confrontation by the police and these days it’s becoming worse. In the case of those who wear their masks, they are inappropriately worn with the nose sticking out making us realize that people are just doing it for the police,” he said.
Motube further mentioned that alcohol consumers are also proving to be a problem as they’re the least observers of Covid protocols especially when intoxicated. He also said distributors are going the extra mile of selling liquor beyond trading hours and through the back door, risking their trading licenses. The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry has also observed with great concern that some liquor traders continue to violate Government Notices specifically No.75 of 2021, published on the 26th February 2021 and No.87 of 2021, published on 5th March 2021, of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020. These call for the sale of liquor at specific trading hours and closure on weekends. A majority of licensed distributors are urged to continue adhering to the regulations to avoid penalties and repossession of trading licenses. However, Discotheque/Nightclubs and Temporary liquor are still closed.
Speaking under anonymity one bar tender said they sell alcohol even beyond the stipulated hours with the hope of reaching expected quota by their employers to avoid slashed pay checks. “We know it is a gamble but we do not have much choice as some of us have not received a full paycheck since the ban on alcohol was lifted. This is because our employers say they lost a lot of money during lockdown and have not made enough to pay us properly,” he said. Terrified, the bar tender said they resort to back door measures to make a recovery and sometimes to pay themselves.
Acting Chairman Botswana alcohol Industry Association Masegonyana Madisa said they know that majority of liquor outlets follow Covid-19 protocols, and it’s only a few that are noncompliant. However, they will continue to encourage all Batswana to abide by the regulations, and remain grateful to the BPS for their continued vigilance and service. “The Association has been made aware of the challenges facing liquor outlets, such as the current trading hours and days including prohibition of trading over the weekend and ban of onsite consumption, however, there is no excuse for breaking the law, and as an association, we entreat liquor outlets and consumers to continue to obey the law,” he added.
Madisa further explained that the association, together with other relevant stakeholders, has met with Government and submitted a formal proposal addressing these issues. He went on to state that they continue to make efforts to support liquor distributors being one of the first entities to assist alcohol retailers with masks, sanitizers and other protective equipment. “Additionally, we rolled out an aggressive campaign dubbed, “Dinwele Dladleng,” which was well received by our stakeholders. Our efforts to educate the public will continue, as we understand that influencing change of the mindset is a continuous process that takes time,” he mentioned.
The police have raised concerns over the means by which liquor distributors have diversified their secretive ways of selling alcohol in a bid to not get caught. Motube said there has been a growing number in the setup of carwashes around neighborhoods and the establishment of pool tables that serve as underground market base. “These people have also developed a habit of selling alcohol at butcheries and braai places,” he mentioned. Another matter of concern is the lack of social distancing especially during illegal drinking sessions otherwise known as ‘chillas’ in alleged secret locations. “There is total disregard of the two meter or more apart rule and this is contributing to the spread of the virus. We as law enforcers however will never tire of charging people and actively ensuring the law is implemented,” Motube added.