Alcohol black market booms

Alcohol black market booms

MASERU-THE Covid-19 lockdown has now seen the mushrooming of a booming alcohol black market.
Nkeane Motseki, who is the Chairman of the Lesotho Liquor and Restaurant Owners Association (LL&ROA), said there has been a surge in the numb`er of black market alcohol sellers.

“The limited selling hours for the industry has given some people a chance to make money on the days that alcohol businesses are not open,” Motseki said. 

“When our doors are shut some people are selling alcohol.”
Even beyond the pandemic, Motseki said they expected that people will continue to sell alcohol on the black market.
“This says to us who pay rent, employees and tax, that we need to diversify or else sink because enforcement is a serious challenge in this country,” he said.

He said during this period when they are operating for limited hours people prefer to buy alcohol in large quantities so that they can have it even when the pubs are closed.
“Unfortunately we cannot tell those who are buying for their own consumption and those buying to sell when they are not supposed to be selling,” he said.

He added that because of these illegal businesses that are operating outside of the law, they are now facing real challenges to stay afloat.
“Just last week because of unlawful clubs that operated without adhering to precautionary measures the industry was being threatened,” he said.
“We are already struggling and there are others out there making things even more difficult for us.”

Regardless of these challenges he said they are still pushing for the government to extend the operating hours to at least three days if not four.
“We are still awaiting a response and staying hopeful because these two days are not adequate at all.”
Meanwhile, Teboho Molefi, a Manager of Alphabet Off-sales, said business is so bad that they fear for their jobs.
“One would think that because we are in town we would be better off but that is not the case,” Molefi said.

“The struggle is real, people are seriously prioritising basic needs because of this pandemic, the sales are low,” he said.
Rent, he said, is expensive and coupled with staff salaries and fees for security services, two days of opening the pubs are not enough.
“To make matters worse alcohol prices have gone up. For example, a six pack of Castle used to be M66 a few weeks ago but it now costs M80,” Molefi said.

In Ha-Pita empty crates of alcohol are packed outside, the aftermath of morning sales when people came to stock.
“The only thing that is sustaining business at the moment is alcohol that is sold in cases, selling singles does not work,” Thoriso Thaele, an employee at Super Service Pub, said.

“Since this morning we do not even have a single crate full of empties from people who bought singles yet it is after two o’clock,” he said.
Thursdays, he said, are bad as there is no traffic compared to Monday.
“Usually people restock on Monday as they buy enough for the rest of the week,” Thaele said.
“However, if they run out they buy from the black market. We are in serious trouble.”

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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