Alcohol Abuse Rampant Amongst Hwange Students

By 30 April 2021Youth

Alcohol abuse remains a challenge in most Matabeleland communities, in Hwange, the COVID-19 lockdowns may have exacerbated the crisis.

Dumisani and his friends are staggering to walk as they come out of a bushy area of an old cemetery near Rankini in Lwendulu, Hwange. Tracing their trail unearths two recently emptied, 100 millilitres bottle of liquor. This type of liquor is not legal in Zimbabwe.

The illegal sale of smuggled liquor has found a thriving and promising market in Hwange to the detriment of the community. The alcohol is being sold to both the elderly and children.

Successive lockdowns made children engage in alcohol abuse, a situation that continues today despite the opening of schools. Alcohol abuse is synonymous with drug abuse and directly affects the development of individuals and the community at large. A growing number of children are abusing alcohol, in this case, smuggled Zambian liquor. The liquor that has found its way to Hwange is bols and ice and is being sold under the counter and backyards.

A growing number of children are abusing alcohol, in this case, smuggled Zambian liquor. The liquor that has found its way to Hwange is bols and ice and is being sold under the counter and backyards.

“It is very unfortunate that some people whom we expect to be responsible are selling our children bols. They do not bother about age and the source of money. As soon as we establish their underground network, we will report them to the authorities.” Patricia Ndlovu, a mother of two.

Another parent Joyce Tshuma says she is extremely concerned by the experimenting tendencies of the children.

“The challenge is, our children sometimes play away from us. So we cannot properly monitor them. It is from there that they start experimenting with things like alcohol. Behavioural change is seen and they are no longer interested in their school work,” says Tshuma.

Many children as young as form one learners were seen consuming bols and ice in high-density suburbs and secluded places during the lockdown. Many of them have continued abusing alcohol, which is affecting their social life. Sources that spoke to this publication said these two liquor are sold at a dollar per bottle and are diluted with a fizzy drink. A situation which has seen an increase in the demand for fizzy drinks as well.

One of the children who spoke to The Citizen Bulletin on condition of anonymity said it was peer pressure and sometimes loneliness that drove them into alcohol.

“It starts as an experiment, but after a couple of times, one is used to it. This liquor is cheap, and there is an issue of addiction. I was fortunate to taste and quit but, my friends have gone down the drain with these liquors,” says *Prosper, a form two student.

Hopeville Foundation director Ruth Bikwa says alcohol abuse by children is problematic, and prevention measures are necessary.

“It’s important to engage with children and raise awareness on dangers of alcohol. The challenge is that some children are doing piece jobs, making them have money to buy themselves liquor. Preventive measures must include parents closely monitoring their children and the surrounding environment,” says Bikwa.

Concerned parents are saying preventive action might reduce the availability of alcohol to pupils by conditioning the legal beer and cigar outlets to have stricter standards of selling their beer. This publication observed that illegal liquor dealers sell spirits more than clear beer since it has more alcohol content than clear or opaque beer.

Tsitsi Masengure, a children’s rights defender and lawyer at Justice for Children, says that access to alcohol by students could be reduced by working with law enforcement agents to arrest traders who flout the regulations not to sell alcohol substances to children.

“From the findings, it is clear that the Ministry of Health and Child Care may need to disseminate Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material on alcohol-related problems such that people can better appreciate the dangers of using substances,” says Masengure.

Speaking to this publication, one Charle, an illegal alcohol seller, said he had no intention to quit his business soon.

“When we sell these beers, we don’t provide a resting place like shebeens, so we don’t know who will consume it,” says Charle.

This publication observed that illegal liquor dealers sell spirits more than clear beer since it has more alcohol content than clear or opaque beer.

“We are struggling with life, so I am trying to eke a living from selling liquor. When children come buying, we just sell them alcohol because we assume parents have sent them.”
Charlie, an illegal alcohol seller

“When we sell these beers, we don’t provide a resting place like shebeens, so we don’t know who will consume it,” says Charle.

Advocate Tsitsi Masengure blames some parents and older siblings for the errant behaviour.

“From focus group discussions and key informants interviews, it is clear that some older brothers of students enable their young brothers to drink beer and sometimes hang around with them openly at these drinking places around school premises.”

Source: The Citizen Bulletin