Covid-19 lockdown ‘brews’ more sheebens

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WITH beer halls and bars officially closed because of the coronavirus (Covid-19) national lockdown, shebeens have taken over and like a bush fire, are spreading to the affluent suburbs of Bulawayo.

Shebeens, which were usually concentrated in the city’s old suburbs of Mzilikazi, Matshobana and Makokoba among others have since the lockdown now mushroomed in low density suburbs like Hillside and Burnside.

While the old popular shebeens in high density areas have remained busy, the new establishments are mostly run by young beautiful ladies who also offer more than just beer — sex booking rooms.

Those outlets in low density suburbs attract the well heeled and even the white minority community. Here, soft music and skimpily dressed ladies are part of the set up.

“This is not Makokoba, so we just have to know who our client is. The good thing here is that there is tight security, we vet our clients. You can even tell by the price of our beer and the type of people drinking here,” said a shebeen queen in Hillside suburb who identified herself as Debra.

Asked how they cope with the constant police raids, Debra said: “Forget about that, it’s all sorted out because the top guys drink here so that can’t be an issue.”

While in the leafy suburbs, one has to search for shebeens, it is quite different in the high density suburbs where one can find two of them within 100 metres of each other.

“The beer business is the way to go; that’s why you see almost every house being turned into a shebeen. The problem we have is police, they always raid us, but we are always prepared for that. They are also human beings so we talk with them; things are tight for everyone in Zimbabwe,” said Emmanuel Zindori, who runs a shebeen in Makokoba.

Interestingly, a survey by this publication revealed that in Mzilikazi suburb about four different shebeens are thriving just less than 200 metres from Barbourfields Police Station, with one of them just a stone’s throw away.

In these high density suburbs, popular South African music from Splash, Soul Brothers and Kwaito is still a catch.

“It’s hard to live without beer for some of us, so I am happy that at least we have some places where we can relax and drink with friends since bars are closed,” said Dzikamai Hore.

But law abiding residents are not happy.

“Shebeens are now attracting thieves into our community, talk of the noise coming from the drinkers and also the music, it makes it hard for us. Surprisingly, we frequently see police officers in uniform drinking from these spots so it’s a very difficult situation for us,” said a residents chairman in Mpopoma, Denford Masilela.

While police have not stopped raids on these illegal establishments, residents feel enough is not being done.

“Police are all over and arrest those who break the law,” said Bulawayo provincial spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube. He however said he needed time to inquire about the situation on the ground.

A few years ago, then Bulawayo governor Cain Mathema (now Education minister) called for the legalisation of shebeens, arguing that laws barring their operations were formulated during the colonial era.

“Shebeen operators should be given licences to be able to operate without being victimised. Victimisation of shebeen operators did not start after independence, it started during the colonial era and now the country is following the same route and that is wrong,” he said.

Mathema described shebeens as good places of socialisation such as solving domestic disputes and holding meetings for burial societies. He joined other politicians such as the late Vice-President Joseph Msika, Sydney Malunga, former Bulawayo mayor Joshua Malinga and the late Zanu PF politburo member Sikhanyiso Ndlovu who also fought a vain war for the legalisation of shebeens.

Malinga even went as far as saying shebeens were places where gentlemen go.

This signifies how resilient these watering holes have turned out to be and to some extent being seen as “official”.

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