Long queues at  liquor stores

Long queues at liquor stores

MASERU – BASOTHO just love their beer.
That was the message they sent out, loud and clear, yesterday as thousands flooded liquor stores to buy alcohol.
The stampede came a day after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane lifted restrictions on alcohol sales that were imposed during the nationwide lockdown.

All alcohol outlets were closed on March 20 in an attempt to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
But yesterday, long queues could be seen at most retail outlets. Taverns and bars were full of patrons after the ban on alcohol sales was lifted.
Minister of Tourism Joang Molapo said they had answered a call by Basotho to open liquor stores but the move still came with some strict regulations.

He said they are aware of the positive spin-offs from the lockdown that had seen a massive reduction in violent crime, road accidents and other alcohol-induced misdemeanours.
“We will monitor the situation for two weeks and if Basotho do not behave, we will withdraw the decision to open the liquor stores,” Molapo said.

He said the Ministry of Health’s hands are full because it had shifted its attention to fight Covid-19.
This is because the ministry is not going to be able to attend to emergencies that could have otherwise been avoided.
“Our number one priority is the safety and wellbeing of the people,” Molapo said.

He said liquor stores will be allowed to operate on Mondays and Thursdays only from 8am to 4pm.
The stores will only allow people to buy a case (8 litres) of alcoholic drinks with less than 10 percent alcohol content per volume.
This includes ciders, beers, quarts, spirits and home brewed beer.

People will be allowed three litres of alcoholic drinks of over 10 percent to 20 percent alcohol per volume while individuals will be allowed to buy 1.5 litres of alcohol that has over 20 percent to 45 percent alcohol content per volume.

The minister said they are aware that there is alcohol that is being sold with a 50 percent alcohol content.
“We do not advise people to drink this Chinese alcohol because it is dangerous for their health. We will look into this type of alcohol and decide what to do” Molapo said.
He said restaurants will work on take-away basis.
“These hospitality facilities will order food for room service only and not dine in the dining hall neither should they drink in the bar area,” Molapo said.

According to the Chairman of the Lesotho Liquor and Restaurants Owners Association, Motseki Nkeane, they saw an influx of buyers yesterday.
Nkeane said they were happy when the Prime Minister announced they would be allowed to open their businesses after a month and a half of no sales due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said they were not happy that Molapo had proposed to limit their operating conditions during the lockdown.

“It is going to limit us and this means we will not be able to make money. If we will have to stock and sell just for two days, it means one day will be dedicated to stocking the other to selling,” Nkeane said.
He said for an industry that has lost time due to the lockdown, the new regulations will make life difficult for them.
“In our previous meeting with the minister, we told him that we would like to be consulted before things are implemented but we are still being overlooked,” Nkeane said.

Some of the liquor outlets, he said, were forcibly shut by the police without any clear reasons.
“This industry is a source of livelihood for many families. About 300 000 people are dependent on this industry and we should be given a fair fighting chance in order to avoid loss of jobs and income for these people,” Nkeane said.

Tšele Mokala of SMCS Brands told thepost that they saw a lot of movement of stock.
“It was like the peak season, like it was the festive season,” Mokala said.
He said the proposed regulations will still go a long way in ensuring that most employees in the industry do not lose their jobs.
“Some of the brands I distribute for were already saying that if there are no sales at all this month then they will have to let go some people,” Molaka said.

“It is better than having stock in warehouses until they reach their expiry dates without any sale,” Mokala added.
Meanwhile Seabata Khanyapa a Liquor outlet owner as well said the first day was busy and full of anxieties.

“We are not sure who to listen to anymore. We heard the Prime Minister, then the minister says something and the police also say something different.
“We are not free; we are scared and not sure how to proceed because some of our colleagues have already been (intimidated) by the police,” Khanyapa said.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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