“As part of opening up our economy government has decided though in a controlled manner, for the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, the details of which will be communicated by the Honourable Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Ms. Peggy Serame shortly.
Please, please, please be sensitive, sensible and responsible. Government will not hesitate to respond if we see signs and evidence of non compliance and threat of transmission,” this was the highlight of President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s speech that Batswana waited to hear on Saturday night.
Just before the lockdown necessitated by actions to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) making its way into Botswana and neighbouring countries, alcohol guzzlers were barred from buying their famous drinks from their usual outlets. As if that was not enough, the sale of alcohol was totally banned from even bottle stores and wholesalers who had been holding fort.
Throughout the lockdown period Batswana would be complaining on social media as to why liquor had been stopped. The alcohol industry players tried to lobby government to allow home deliveries. The plea fell upon deaf years as the trade ministry stated that they depended on health officials for the green light, which they never got.
On May 6, while Parliament was on, Serame tweeted to the effect that alcohol would be sold from May 8.
She tweeted a list that included baby clothing stores, alcohol dealers (through home delivery) and others announcing they would be trading on phase three of the lockdown. After getting the nation excited, Serame would pull the rug with another tweet apologising that it was a mistake that alcohol was on that list.
While some Batswana abided by rules and sat back, those who could not resist their thirst for the ‘holy water’ had to dig at least four times deeper into their pockets to get a drink in the black market.
Some with not so deep pockets resorted to homemade brews including traditional beer, khadi and setopoti while others tried recipes from the internet to make their own alcoholic beverages.
The police have made many arrests of those involved in the trade, while health facilities have also had to admit some who got sick from bad home made brew batches. During his address, Masisi said government continues to do its best to safeguard the health of the nation whilst ensuring that the economy is able to survive following the deleterious effects of the pandemic.
“It must be appreciated therefore, that our ongoing efforts to safeguard the future of Botswana in the face of this pandemic will be costly and require that hard choices be made to prioritise the limited resources at our disposal.
That is why even though we value all our citizens in the diaspora, the priority for any interventions will be limited to only those in dire circumstances and are unable to sustain themselves during this difficult time,” he said.