The Covid-19 lockdown has seen the mushrooming of shebeens in Mbembesi under Chief Ndondo with locals concerned that they are at risk of contracting the deadly virus.
When the government imposed the nationwide lockdown in March last year most businesses were forced to close shop resulting in employees losing their jobs, a situation that further worsened their financial situation.
In order to survive, some villagers in Mbembesi set up illegal shebeens in violation of Covid-19 regulations which banned such activities, as the country battled to contain the spread of the virus.
While some saw an opportunity to make money some villagers have raised concern that these shebeens where covid-19 regulations such as wearing of face masks, sanitising and social distancing are hardly followed put them at risk of the pandemic.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) last year recommended social distancing of at least 1 metre apart as a protective measure to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in public spaces. Bars and shebeens where people gather to consume alcohol increase the risk of transmission of the virus, according to health experts.
Keke Mtambo, a local villager said the illegal shebeens were endangering their lives.
“Shebeens are troubling us and endangering our lives in light of the Covid -19 situation because when a person is drunk they become uncontrollable and they disregard the Covid-19 regulations exposing themselves and others to the pandemic,” said Mtambo.
He added that they have engaged the local leadership to reign in the errant shebeen operators but they have continued with their illegal operations.
“Traditional leaders have been engaged to talk to these people but they tell them that due to Covid 19 they do not have any jobs to fend for the family. As a villager l am now leaving in fear because of these people who are selling alcohol and l am not happy because there is no longer peace in our area because these shebeens seem to be increasing in number,” said Mtambo.
Some of the women who spoke to CITE said the proliferation of illegal shebeens in the area is a threat to their marriages.
“Shebeens are popular in cities and not in rural areas. There are certain immoral acts that take place in those shebeens and we feel that they might affect our marriages since most men are now frequenting those places. Our husbands when they go there to drink they do not come back home on time. When one shebeen is closed, they go to another which will be operating at that time. Our marriages are shaking with this alcohol business,” said Elinah Ndlovu.
One of the shebeen owners Thandiwe Dube said they were forced into the business due to financial challenges brought about by the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
“I do sell alcohol at home, l agree on that. It is better to sell alcohol because you get money to buy food for the family. I always encourage my customers to observe social distancing whenever they come to buy alcohol.
“We are fully aware of the coronavirus disease and we insist that our customers sanitise. We have been told to close our businesses but at the same time, our families need food on the table. How can we survive without doing anything which generates income?” said Dube.
Mbembesi Chief Dumisani Ndondo said they have taken steps to close down the illegal shebeens.
“The shebeens are there in my area, we have also tried to engage the police to assist us in closing them however they were failing due to a shortage of vehicles. This type of business is not advisable as this will result in a spike in Covid-19 cases. The owners of these businesses were engaged in our discussion and they said they are trying to make a living through that.
“I explained to them that if they wanted to engage in alcohol sales, then they had to do it legally and while following the right procedures. We are trying to find a suitable area where the shops will be built and those interested can go and rent and sell their beer than running illegal shebeens at their homes,” said Chief Ndondo