By Andile Tshuma
COWDRAY Park suburb residents have decried the sprouting of shebeens in their suburb, which they blame for the high crime rate in the area.
Bulawayo Residents Association (Bura) Cowdray Park chairperson, Stanley Kwashira, said his association, on behalf of residents, had approached the police twice on the issue of shebeens and got solutions that did not last long.
“We wish the police could help us with a long lasting solution. The raids no longer seem to work and the shebeens are a menace as some of the people that run them do not respect neighbours and play loud music.
“The nightclubs and sports bars are also a thorn in the flesh. We were born with shebeens all around us but they somehow were not as bad as what we are experiencing now. The police were feared back then. Right now these shebeen queens and kings don’t care about the law,” said Kwashira.
A lot of crime takes place when people don’t sleep and are gathered drinking. Criminals take advantage and mingle with those, to start robbing people, he said.
“The shebeens in my area are better as they do not play very loud music, but other parts of Cowdray Park need serious intervention,” said the Bura Cowdray Park chairperson.
Ward 28 Councillor Collet Ndhlovu, who owns a sports club in the suburb said he had engaged police over shebeens and crime in Cowdray Park suburb.
“I received a report that shebeens were becoming a menace again. We were busy with primary elections. I am yet to consult but these places are bad as they harbour criminals and incubate all sorts of social ills. People sell beer especially in parts of Cowdray Park where there are no licensed liquor facilities,” he said.
Bulawayo Assistant police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube urged the Cowdray Park community to desist from criminal activities as they would face arrest.
“Public drinking is illegal and selling beer without a liquor licence is also illegal. Operating unlicensed beer outlets from homes is a punishable offence and the public must be warned. Our mandate is to uphold the law and protect the public and we will continue to do so by arresting those that take part in illegal activities,” said Asst Inspector Ncube.
Government recently announced that it was working on legalising shebeens, three years after it first revealed that it was working on a policy to legalise them to promote local tourism.
Responding to legislators during the National Assembly’s question and answer session recently, the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry Prisca Mupfumira said shebeens would have to first register with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) before Government grants them licences.
“What we are in the process of doing as a ministry is to ensure that all tourist activities, shebeens, lodges or whatever are registered with the ministry through ZTA.
The proposed legalisation of shebeens by Government has sparked raging debate from alcohol selling outlets, churches and some lawyers, who argue that Bulawayo City by-laws were at risk of being flouted willy-nilly.
For now shebeens remain illegal and police conduct frequent raids on the joints, arresting the owners and patrons. The alcohol is confiscated by law enforcement officers.
There are no figures of shebeens in Bulawayo. The city has 29 wards and almost all wards have an illegal beer outlet in one form or another.
However, B-Metro survey in Cowdray Park revealed that there were more than 20 such outlets. The suburb has more than 30 000 houses. B Metro.