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Seeking a drop of comfort

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Seeking a drop of comfort

Liquor industry want bars to operate as off-consumption outlets

On Friday 27 March, a week before the country went into lockdown, government indefinitely suspended the sale of alcohol in Botswana.

Not a drop has been sold, legally, since.

Fast-forward to this Monday and President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced the 28-day lockdown, originally set to end on Friday, would be increased by three weeks, albeit with varying restrictions.

Last week, pre-empting Masisi’s announcement, the Botswana Alcohol Industry Association (BAIA) proposed that if the initial lockdown is extended, the sale of liquor should be permitted in off-consumption sales outlets.

They also suggested that, where possible, online platforms be made available to limit the travel of consumers.

To that end, BAIA Chairman, Mothusi Molokomme recommended that bars be granted special dispensation to operate as off-consumption outlets subject to social distancing requirements.

“This would also ensure that these outlets do not experience further negative economic impact with many of these outlets already under financial distress due to the 30-day extreme social distancing period,” noted Molokomme.

The association proposed that outlets should be allowed to open from 1000hrs to 1800hrs on all weekdays.

“It is our view that a compression of trading hours encourages crowding which puts social distancing at risk. Hence our proposal to include trading hours of 1000hrs – 1400hrs on Saturday coupled with no trading on Sunday and Public Holidays,” continued the association chair.

Seeking a drop of comfort
SUSPENDED: Liquor on display

In order to reduce density, Molokomme says the number of customers allowed in an off-consumption liquor outlet will be a maximum of one person per square metre.

He urged government to consider their proposal and give it the ‘urgent attention and seriousness’ it deserves.

“We too believe in the sustainability of this country and would like to partner with government in making this a reality,” said Molokomme, adding that as the industry, they are confident the proposals are practical.

As it currently stands, the sale of alcohol will remain illegal during the State of Emergency, set to last until October.

Meanwhile the ban on alcohol has given birth to an underground trade, with beer being sold for three, often four times the normal trading price.

Those caught selling face a possible six-month prison term or a fine of up to P5, 000 or even both.

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Crafting a new life

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Crafting a new life

The Enterprising Welder Me and My Business

Absorbed and happy in his work as a car mechanic, an unlikely request from a client three years ago changed the course of 35-year-old Bokamoso Selthabi’s life forever.

The self-taught welder now designs and makes various products from metal, including troughs, trailers, cages, kraal fences and other farm implements.

Having initially set-up shop in the North West of South Africa, his home of three years, the Morwa native retraced his steps back to Botswana to continue Bucha Rest Welding.

Recalling the meeting that altered his existence, Setlhabi told Voice Money he was working as a mechanic when a customer asked him to build a trailer for him.

“I made the product for him. After that he brought two more guys wanting my services. From there it grew into a fully-fledged business,” he explained.

“The business has now been running for two years based in South Africa. It is only at the beginning of this year that we relocated to Botswana,” continued the multi-talented craftsman, adding he briefly explored the Namibian market as well.

While he is still new to the local market, with much of that time blanketed by Covid-19 restrictions, Selthabi admits he is yet to reach a point where he can say business is as good as it was in South Africa.

“So far it has been a bit difficult locally. Some of the products that we do like metal kraals are still not highly rated here but we are working hard to market such products as a good alternative to wooden kraals,” he noted, a steely determination evident in his tone.

Setlhabi explained that one of the perceived disadvantages of products like metal kraals is because the metal conducts heat.

However, he points out that this can be overcome by simply applying paint.

“The good thing about it is that it is durable and lasts longer than other materials used to construct kraals,” he highlighted.

Despite the current low uptake of his products, the enterprising welder is optimistic his fortunes will soon turn around.

“It is promising because, when you work with customers who are not used to what you are doing, you have to carry out extensive marketing of your products. We hope when life goes back to normal after the pandemic there will be some improvement,” he said, adding that items such as feeding containers have proved popular and are in demand.

“We also have customers waiting across the country,” he added.

Other challenges – and the one Setlhabi describes as his biggest – is copycats who attempt to duplicate his work ‘but often fail to match my skills’.

“We have social media pages where we post our products. People would want to do exactly the same but often do not succeed because our designs are unique and the quality is top-notch,” said the National Craft Certificate (NCC) holder proudly.

As the business is still at infancy stage, he has engaged one person to assist but hopes as the enterprise grows he will be able to employ more.

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Business

Battling for booze

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Battling for booze

Liquor industry wants alcohol sale ban lifted

Botswana Alcohol Industry Association (BAIA) is lobbying for government to follow the example of neighbouring countries and lift the ban on alcohol sales.

Their main reasoning being that citizens who live close to the border may be tempted to sneak out of the country in their desperation to buy liquor. They note this would be detrimental to the economy as well posing a serious health hazard.

The Association Chairman, Mothusi Molokomme told Voice Money they believe the ban – in place since 27 March – should be lifted to allow the public to purchase alcohol and consume it at home.

As much as the main focus is for bottle stores and wholesalers to open for trade, Molokomme revealed they also want bars to be opened, noting they are the only centres of distribution in some of the country’s remoter areas.

He stressed that bars should be allowed to operate on a ‘takeaway’ basis but only after they satisfy Covid-19 prevention protocols.

“The main worry is that there will be loitering around the bars. But it is our belief that operators will strictly adhere to the regulations and allow for takeaways only,” stated Molokomme.

The Chairman pointed to the recent surge in homebrews as indication that the ban should be lifted.

During the period of lockdown, the police have recorded escalating cases of homebrews, which in some instances have even led to the loss of drinkers’ lives.

“There is also a regional factor because South Africa has announced it will be opening next week. Namibia is opening as well and Zambia has always remained opened and because of our porous borders, we may see the illegal coming in of liquor,” continued Molokomme.

He said areas located along the borders of these countries pose a threat to liquor contraband.

While the association advocates for the ban to be lifted, he says as the industry, they will also intensify their message for safer consumption and promote good behaviour among consumers to exercise precautionary measures.

“We are hoping that we will reach an agreement. It will be difficult to convince government when it comes to opening of bars, but we cannot sideline the bars because, in some areas they are the only available points of sale,” reiterated Molokomme, who doubles as the Managing Director of Distell Botswana.

The association was scheduled to meet with the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI), Peggy Serame this week to map a way forward regarding the sale of alcohol.

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