The sale of alcohol popularly known as cranko (spirits), or hot stuff in street lingo, is on the rise at most commuter ranks in the city.
The water-like substance is well known for its reputation of causing total blackouts to drinkers. Despite the adverse health and social effects of alcohol abuse, the drink is proving popular with beer drinkers who work in the streets, due both to its availability and affordability.
At Fourth Street commuter omnibus terminus the illicit alcohol is sold from five litre used mineral water containers and served in $1 portions of 250ml. The illicit beer traders use unused passenger sheds to conduct their business.
ZRP Harare Provincial Spokesperson Inspector Tedious Chibanda said that under section 115 and 116 of the Liquor Act, it is a punishable offence to sell alcohol without a licence as well as consuming alco-hol in unauthorised places, commonly referred to as public drinking.
Inspector Chibanda noted that the intake of illicit beer was widespread throughout greater Harare and identified street kids and touts as the main culprits. However, he called for co-operation from all stakeholders in the fight against prohibited substances.
“It is a bit difficult to detect unless there is a tip off so we always urge the public to report such cases of illegal beer sales. Other stakeholders should also come in to help those who are already addicted,” said Chibanda.
Most of the illicit alcohol sellers only sell to regular customers. No new faces are entertained unless they are accompanied by a known customer. The drinkers are also difficult to notice as they use trans-parent plastic bottles and are only exposed by their actions when they get tipsy.
Taking a walk along Fourth Street, one will be met by plenty of staggering youths who will be visibly drunk. Softaz, a driver who works the City-Epworth route, revealed that some of his colleagues were taking the illicit drink to gain courage to evade law enforcement agents.
“The issue of cranko is a problem here and it is now affecting our operations as most become difficult to deal with when heavily drunk. They are the ones who end up being involved in high speed chases with traffic cops,” said Softaz.
Emaculate Ndoro, a vendor at Fourth Street, also alleged that the availability of illicit beer, mostly smuggled from Mozambique, was causing problems for them.
“Authorities should do something about the sale of cranko because it is increasing the number of vagabonds at this terminus. Some of the drinkers get drunk to the point of not being able to go home and they end up sleeping anywhere,” said Ndoro. Consumption of alcohol in public places has an impact not only on the drinkers themselves but also on the people around as well. Drunkards are known for their loose morals, which impacts negatively on society and for becoming a danger to themselves.
Alcohol abuse has also been blamed for various social ills such as violence. A coordinated effort is needed between law enforcement authorities and society in general to reduce or totally eliminate the sale of illicit brews in Harare. As a city we need to treat the problem with the urgency it demands before it develops into a catastrophe.
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