GOBABIS: The rampant abuse of alcohol at Gobabis, especially locally-brewed liquor, continues to haunt the town council as a relatively high number of youths and elderly citizens appear to be hooked on the practice.
Hordes of patrons, most of them the elderly, are on a daily basis seen at liquor outlets at the town’s Epako residential area where they spend the entire day drinking cheap liquors such as tombo, ombike and other local concoctions.
Countless efforts by the town council, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local community-based organisations (CBOs) to educate both patrons and liquor outlet owners on the effects of alcohol have seemingly fallen on deaf ears.
When Nampa visited a local house where liquor is sold in the town’s Rakutuka residential hub on Tuesday morning, scores of patrons had already made their way there and were patiently waiting to be served.
Most of the patrons who frequent such outlets are often the marginalised, unemployed and pensioners, who would spend the little they earn from remittances and pensions on booze.
According to some of the patrons this agency spoke to, drinking has become their only means to get through the day, and to escape boredom.
Many opined that drinking takes their minds off the hardships of life which they often face, and they can as such not do away with it.
“What must we do? What is there to do here in Gobabis? Look around you: do you see a lot of people working? This is our lives, and we have made peace with it,” Stefanus Afrikaner, an elderly citizen, said dejectedly.
Gobabis mayor Sila Bezuidenhoudt expressed concern about the situation, saying it could become worse if not curtailed effectively.
Bezuidenhoudt told Nampa upon enquiry that the town council, of which she is the chairperson, has on various occasions addressed the matter.
She noted that due to the fact that many families rely on the sale of alcohol for their livelihoods, it was difficult for the council to simply move in and close down the outlets.
Instead, the council has tried to educate them on responsible ways of conducting their businesses.
“As leaders, we should stand together and devise even more ways of dealing with the issue. We cannot simply sit back and watch the town’s most important resource – its people – waste their lives,” the mayor stressed.
Omaheke Police Commander, Commissioner Josephat Abel said the recent spate of violent crimes reported at the town have largely been attributed to alcohol, as most of the perpetrators were allegedly drunk when they committed the crimes.
“The recent murder of Maria Erastus is, amongst others, a clear example of the influence of alcohol on crime, as people who are under such influence fail to make proper judgements and often commit crime,” he said.
According to Abel, the police will not rest to ensure that alcohol trading places are well-regulated to avoid any further bloodshed or loss of innocent lives, most notably of women.
“Omaheke has a small population, and so does the main town of Gobabis. What will become of the town and its developmental objectives if innocent people’s lives are taken away due to alcohol abuse? We will not allow such a situation to continue,” the top cop stressed.
Compared to other mainstream to towns in the country, Gobabis has one of the lowest numbers of shebeens and bars.
The town, however, boasts one of the largest concentrations of traditional brew-selling outlets such as the one visited by Nampa, making law-enforcement even more difficult.
The Gobabis population stands at 16 500 as per the latest estimates.