Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Tswana party scene: Making lemonade out of lemons

By Andrew Moyo

“Our government came down hard and killed party life. From increasing the alcohol levy, to making sure that night clubs close early, they have gone to great lengths to ensure that they reduce alcohol consumption in the country.”

These were the sentiments of one merrymaker in Gaborone while commenting on the party scene in the capital of Botswana.

Legend has it the country was renowned for its vibrant leisure vibe where booze was consumed like it was air itself, but things have changed, thanks to the 2008 Liquor Act, which put some brakes on excessive intake of alcohol.

Locals say introduction of trading curfews, ensuring that night clubs close at 2am and the exorbitant alcohol levy of over 50 percent, which led to an increase in alcohol prices, have put a dent on the country’s party culture.

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Many leisure spots are said to have shut shop as sales have gone down over the years.

Also, police in Botswana do not play around when it comes to enforcing the law, with their alcohol breathalysers one of the most feared gadgets as drunk driving attracts steep fines or even jail.

This reporter had the privilege of experiencing the leisure scene in various parts of the Botswana during a visit last weekend.

After being told that the vibe was going to be a bit dull considering the various stringent restrictions, the reality on the ground turned out to be the opposite.

From the parking lot in front of Honeymoon Bar in Palapye on a Friday night to the elegant setting of Cigar Lounge in Gaborone on Sunday, it is evident that Tswana people love their fun and are unapologetic about it.

If their current vibe is what they call dull and laid back, one can imagine what sort of chaos would have been taking place before their wings were clipped.

Drinking in parking lots in front of bars, “Car park pimping” as they call it, seems to be the in thing and is only a tip of the iceberg as this is just the pre-drinks scenario, something that many Zimbabweans, especially in the capital would be familiar with.

In Palapye, a village resembling a blossoming town, Club Wamzito seemed to be the ultimate destination for imbibers, which is no surprise considering that it is the only night club in the area.

This would be your typical Inaki’s setup, with deep house jams pounding away and patrons who were quick to get into their dancing strides. Not bad for a village groove.

Rasesa Social Picnic, a biannual event that was held last Saturday at Masa Garden shed a bit of light on how youths in this part of the world love to boogie.

The distance, several kilometers from Gaborone to the venue, did not deter the hundreds of determined partygoers. The concept is almost similar to the local Unplugged, although this one seemed to be on steroids.

On the Harare party scene when tickets to an event sell out, people usually hop into their cars and look for other leisure options while others might continue milling around the entrance looking for avenues to gain entrance.

This reporter got to see a different kind of party animal, one that does not give up but rather improvises.

As the old saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It is exactly what these fun-loving individuals did.

The scores of people who failed to get into the event set up their camp chairs, opened cooler boxes and started enjoying their drinks and shisha pipes outside the venue.

It was one epic scene, where another party or rather hangout spot started blooming outside the main event and the people seemed not to be bothered that they had failed to get in.

“Their tickets have sold out but since we are here, we might as well start our own party because there is nowhere else to go as this is the place to be today,” said one individual.

There was no evidence that alcohol was being consumed sparingly as several people were even passing out on the drinks. Gaborone Sundays are laid back, but imbibers do not tone it down but rather start drinking earlier, citing that it is a short day.

In the afternoon, there are various spots including B6 and Campus Bar which attract a reasonable number of patrons, with those who would want to booze late into the night making their way to Cigar Lounge, which is one of their liveliest nightspots in the capital.

Ditso Lekoma, a Gaborone socialite said the reason why many people in the capital drank too much was because there were very few other leisure activities to partake in.

While there are many regulatory laws in Zimbabwe relating to alcohol consumption, they seem to be a bit more relaxed, or are just ignored considering what will be happening on the leisure scene.

In Botswana when they complain that night clubs close early, this side of the border that is definitely foreign as there are many that close when the sun comes up or even run 24 hours a day.

The local party scene is almost similar to theirs, the only difference is the zeal possessed by Tswana merrymakers and of course, their fear of the law. The Sunday Mail