Namibian culture of shebeens

The internationally accepted definition of culture by Unesco states that it includes “the whole complex of distinctive, spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterise a society or a social group. Culture includes arts, letters, modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs.” In general, culture is the essence of a given people’s way of life as represented by their multifaceted creations, accomplishments and aspirations

According to  the culture of Namibia is characterised by a people who speak Bantu languages like Oshiwambo and Otjiherero as their first language. Others speak Khoisan languages (Nama/Damara and various Bushman languages), while a smaller percentage are native speakers of Indo-European languages like Afrikaans and English.

Like most southern African countries Namibia boasts of a variety of architectural styles in addition to Western buildings. But one can also note the increase in dwellings made of metal sheets or concrete blocks with metal roofs, a style also seen in some urban neighbourhoods.

Namibia was originally inhabited by nomadic hunters, gatherers, and pastoralists and one would note the lack of vegetables in the Namibian diet.

 says important occasions are marked by the slaughter of cattle or goats, and the consumption of meat, home-brewed beer, purchased beverages and other foods.

Which emphasises the fact that in Namibia drinking is another part of life. No wonder the capital Windhoek is the home of a popular lager named after the city.

A drive to Katutura Township, a populous location 15 km away from the city centre, one will find shebeens located at every corner or in the yard of every other house in Genesisstraat (a street in Namibias populous Katutura Township), the roughly kilometre-long street is greatly littered by broken bottles.

In Namibia shebeens operate under the Liquor Act of 1988. Shebeen owners are required to get an annual licence but it was apparent through a community radio current affairs programme that most of them are illegal.

Base FM’s Real Talk covered the issue of law enforcers failing to enforce the laws on illegal shebeens.

When Real Talk highlighted this issue it became apparent that residents were irked by the presence of the shebeens and would like their law enforcers to do a little more work in ensuring that the illegal ones are shut down especially with their children growing around them.

But Base FM station manager Marko Ndlovu said there isn’t much that can be done about the shebeens.

“Some people are what they are today because they were taken through school with money that was made through the many shebeens situated in Katutura. Some are lawyers and doctors because their parents had shebeens as a source of income, so you can’t just come today to shut down the shebeens,” he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are about 2 billion people worldwide who consume alcoholic beverages and 76.3 million with diagnosable alcohol use disorders.

Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba decreed all shebeens be registered and those without licences must be shut down.

Shebeen owners protested that the registration process was cumbersome and the bureaucracy relented and tried to make things easier.

But with the concessions from the state, many shebeen owners are still not in compliance with the law.

According to officials at the Windhoek Regional Magistrates’ Office, the institution responsible for issuing liquor licences many outlets are not even licensed.

The City of Windhoek website allows the opening of a pub (shebeen) in one’s own home.

“This is an example of a “resident occupation” and may be permitted subject to the conditions applicable including the support of affected neighbours,” reads a clause in the city’s information pack.

According to news reports from the Namibia Press Agency, Namibia’s capital alone, with a population of 322 500 in 2011, is home to 5 000 shebeens and bars.

Out of the 5 000, a total of 1 500 shebeens and bars are said to be selling alcohol without the required proper documentation.

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