Alertness, bribes, money changing . . . Life of illegal liquor dealers
By Mthabisi Tshuma
It is around midday along George Silundika Street between 9th and 11th avenues in Bulawayo.
Young men are surrounding their cars on top of which is an array of quality whiskeys and vodkas.
Regarded as jacks of all trades, the illegal dealers do not only sell liquor but also double up as illegal money changers.
Their work is characterised by long hours, drinking all day and being always alert to avoid arrest. If they are caught a R100 bribe or just a bottle of whiskey or gin will suffice for them to continue with their business. This is because the liquor is sold in forex and if you are lucky you can buy using local currency, but at a steep price, and only in cash. Electronic money like EcoCash is unwanted.
The dealers are not only found in the central business district but also at Nkulumane 5 koSekusile, Emakhandeni and Cowdray Park among other high-density suburbs.
Questions have arisen as to where these illegal dealers evolved from? Where do they get their merchandise? What’s the hustle all about?
In separate interviews, the liquor dealers say they got the zeal to start operations after seeing a gap on liquor supplies in the country.
A dealer in the CBD who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing arrest said: “Illegally selling liquor is just the same as money changing. In this world and age, the only way to be successful is to be clever and take chances.
“As people also bring in forex to us when buying, we always need to be on the lookout for law enforcers and if they pounce on us, the only way to get out of the situation is if we pay them or give them our products.”
There has been concern on social media that there are people who sell counterfeit alcohol. Previously this publication wrote about a syndicate of people manufacturing their own alcohol and packaging it in empty premium whiskey bottles.
Concurring, a man identified as Mindlos who operates at Cowdray Park Terminus said: “Here ekasi, a lot of these liquor dealers are mostly selling counterfeit products and not everyone is a lover of such stuff.
“So, for me I saw a gap and worked with my brother who is a umalayitsha to buy the products cheap in South Africa and sell them here for a profit. This is much better than for me having to stay home all day.”
Saturday Leisure observed that the merchandise is mostly sourced from South Africa and Botswana.
Some dealers use informal cross-border transporters while others use conventional buses raising fears that the country might be losing large sums of money in potential revenue at border posts where these products are most likely smuggled.
A box of gin is reportedly bought from the black market abroad for R600 or 600 Pula, same as Vat 69, Klipdrift and Smirnoff 1818.
Here they are sold at a whopping R100 per bottle with the dealers getting over a 100 percent profit.
The whiskeys and gins that include Gordons Gin, Vat 69, Klipdrift, Tanqueray and Smirnoff 1818 among other fine tasting liquor products have become popular. The Chronicle