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The story behind the story of covert liquor trade

The story behind the story of covert liquor trade

Placido Hilukilwa

ALCOHOLICS on one hand and a fierce struggle for survival on the other hand, are the missing parts of the story about the covert liquor trade that the Namibian Police are uncovering daily as they conduct a social mobilization campaign to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several residents of Oshakati, Ongwediva, Ondangwa and the surrounding villages were caught in the act of selling liquor at a time when such trade is prohibited by the countrywide lockdown regulations.


Most were fined or locked up, but others were pardoned and warned after promising that they will never repeat the offence.


Informanté caught up with a 26-year-old resident of Oshakati who was one of those caught red-handed selling the alcoholic home-brew locally known as otombo recently.


She said that she is unemployed and a single mother of a six-month old baby.


struggle survival covert liquor trade
SPILLED PROFITS: A container with illicit otombo is emptied on the ground. – Photo: Placido Hilukilwa


“The father of my baby vanished while I was still pregnant. I never received any support from him and his whereabouts is not known to me,” she said, adding that selling otombo is her sole source of income.


She further said that she did apply for the N$750 Emergency Income Grant but did not yet receive any money.


The young woman noted that she is well aware of the seriousness of the current situation and that she knows how the coronavirus is transmitted and its initial symptoms.


“I know that the coronavirus is deadly,” she said, “and that the lockdown is generally a reasonable preventative measure, but in my specific case it was a matter of being between a rock and a hard place”.


She claimed to be a law-abiding citizen saying that selling otombo in secret was not meant to be a deliberate disobedience of the law, but merely a matter of survival.


“You either sell liquor, which is illegal, or you starve,” she said.
When police officers and health workers arrived at her shack, she was still busy serving customers of whom some managed to escape.


She was neither fined nor arrested, but her container of otombo – which was found hidden in a wardrobe – was emptied and she was strictly warned not to continue with the illegal business.


The police and health official acted leniently towards her taking her personal circumstances into consideration.


“To avoid further conflict with the law, I have stopped selling otombo. I am now a beggar. But I am not alone. A lot of people find themselves under similar circumstances,” she said.


Besides the struggle for survival, covert liquor trade flourishes because of popular demand, as liquor addicts encourage and pressurize owners of the temporarily closed liquor outlets to continue trading secretly, going as far as offering to pay double or even triple the normal price.


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