This week in the Khuta – To BEE or not to BEE
With all the debates going on about the closing of shebeens, I decided to visit one of the notorious streets known to have a mushroom of bars and shebeens and spent my whole Saturday in the infamous Eveline Street on the outskirts of Greenwell Matongo. I wanted to experience first-hand what it is exactly that attracts people to frequent these bars and find out what the fuss is about these “evil” drinking holes as some would refer to them.
My friends and I had initially wanted to visit only one bar but as it turns out, that was not to be as apparently it was custom to enter at least five bars in just one night. Luckily for me, all these bars were a stone throw away from each other so I didn’t bother to take a taxi. Going from one bar to the next, I noted that more than half of the customers in all the bars looked like teenagers and while my friends and I sat idle in a corner sipping on Fruitree juice, everyone had some sort of alcoholic drink in their hands. The music was pumping loudly from the red juke box. Man did these young bar patrons dance like crazy!
After our fourth bar visit, I decided to mingle with some patrons as I looked alienated from all the fun with my Fruitree juice. I asked a group of youngsters who looked sober what they thought about the idea of bars being closed down by the police. One energetic female told me that this was where they come to have fun as clubbing is more expensive and besides, the drinks at bars in Eveline Street are considered to be more affordable unlike the shooters they offer at clubs, she said.
Her friends said that the shebeens do not only offer a platform for middle income people to socialize but the owners also generate a lot of income from the operation of shebeens as most of them are unemployed and have many children to take care of. Fair enough, but I was still concerned about the amount of alcohol these youngsters were consuming!
Just when I thought the night was over, my entourage and I decided to visit one last bar before we headed back home. But before we could even make it into the bar to order our drinks, we witnessed a fracas happening at the back end of the bar. A man, who seemed visibly drunk was arguing with another male and although it first appeared to be an argument, pushing and shoving followed and before we knew it, punches were flying left, right and centre. That’s when I decided we have seen enough and left the bar and called it a night.
After my “shebeen queen” experience, I came to the conclusion that even though these shebeens are seen as a form of black economic empowerment for many people, the very same shebeens also bring some very negative connotations to the fore. Namibia has often been declared as a drunken nation and if things continue the way they are, it is unlikely that the situation will change any time soon. So politicians can argue against or for the operations of shebeens and whether the police should close down illegal shebeens,one thing is for sure, even parliament talk will not deter shebeen owners from operating their shebeens and legal or not, this “BEE” initiative is here to stay.