Protecting Zimbabweans from themselves

This week’s Sunday papers announced two very interesting pieces of news. The Sunday Mail carried the story that government has suspended holiday lessons, better known as ‘extra lessons’ – for non-examination classes. Well and good seeing that a lot of teachers were beginning to abuse this system – deliberately failing to complete their syllabuses during the school term hoping to later rip off parents paying for extra lessons. What’s left is for somebody to confirm if this ban has in fact been instituted, as education minister David Coltart came out and refuted these reports.

I had a problem however with the announcement in The Standard that Cabinet is seriously considering effectuating a policy that will regulate the selling of alcohol to between 6am and 7pm, while a ban would be put on beer selling after midday on Sunday. Also to be banned is the selling of alcohol to visibly pregnant women, people deemed to be already inebriated and minors. Seriously? How ridiculous is that. Unless they are saying ultrasound equipment will be placed alongside barcode-scanners – how can anyone honestly tell a pregnant woman apart from one who just has a big tummy? I foresee rotund women potentially suffering serious discrimination because of this policy. Imagine being held up in a supermarket queue where each obese woman buying alcohol has to first get an all-clear before buying beer. How often do you see ‘visibly pregnant’ women buying beer, anyway.

As for the till operator – their new job specification is to vet each beer buyer and determine their level of drunkenness before deciding whether or not to sell them the beer? So it would be like you sir, with the Castle, kindly blow into this breathalyzer first before we complete this transaction. Try denying one of these chapomba fellas and see if they won’t hit you right smack on the head with the bottle.

According to Dr Timothy Stamps – former Health and Child Welfare minister, now health advisor to President Mugabe; these laws are being put together to protect the young and those that ‘react badly to alcohol’. Really?

While I agree that alcohol should not under any circumstances be sold to children, it is laughable that somebody imagines that by limiting alcohol buying time – they can actually limit the amount of alcohol a person imbibes at a given time. I mean, how many people keep their refrigerators stacked with beers and their shelves lined with bottles of vodka and other spirits? In any case, we could end up with a scenario similar to 2008 where illegal beer sellers used to park their cars and sell from the boot. I imagine that real drinkers always find ways around stupid legislation, and will stock their poison well in advance. Now isn’t that risking having people get more tempted to drink when they have all the alcohol in their stocks?

I think more energy should rather be put into public education on the consequences of excessive drinking and the value of responsible drinking. And like what the South Africans are doing – perhaps mull the idea of banning alcohol adverts (not to say I believe that necessarily makes a big difference. Half the alcohol consumed in Zim – like the home brewed kachasu and now popular Mozambican Timbirani – is not advertised.)

The whole idea of legislating morality and using the coercive force of law to promote notions of virtue or express the moral convictions of a selfish few would be anathema to a majority of citizens. Alcohol may be unhealthy in the long run, but that does not justify the kind of patronization being touted here, or laws that prevent consenting adults from indulging in it. I think it is highly detestable to assume that adult people do not know that alcohol is harmful to their health and therefore need geriatrics like Stamps to take their hand and say, you can only drink between 6 and 7.


2 thoughts on “Protecting Zimbabweans from themselves

  1. I think it is only when people have too much time on their hands they don’t know how to use that they come up with these kinds of weird policies. I mean, they are a lot of real issues that need attention in this country. In any case, people can hoarde beer between 6AM and 7PM so that they can get inebriated well beyond 7PM…

  2. Now this is some good writing. I salute you for writing so eloquently and firmly.

    Laws in Zimbabwe don’t generally work. Do you really think that the girl at the checkout counter at TM really cares whether the customer buying a crate of Castle is just about to pop a baby? Hardly likely as she probably has a million and one stresses of her own swirling in her head. So yes, there’ll probably be a law. But I don’t think it will be followed. Perhaps the selling of alcoholic beverages will be controlled in those big supermarkets that risk losing their licences. But if there’s one thing we know about Zimbabwe, it’s that laws are mere obstacles that make things more ‘interesting’ to manoeuvre around.

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