These days at kombi ranks, if you see kombi crews and touts in a queue holding empty bottles and think they are buying water, you are mistaken.
These are in fact queues for illicit beer, for sale at a price as low as fifty cents per filled bottle. At CBD kombi ranks such as Fourth Street, Charge office, Copacabana, and Market Square, the sale of illicit alcohol has become rampant.
The traders use deserted passenger sheds to conduct their business, which is masked by cardboard boxes where beer is hidden in cooler boxes.
According to one vendor, who only wanted to be identified by his first name Chamu, the consumers of illicit beer are touts and a few drivers and conductors of kombis. He said the touts usually became high after drinking the beer and are difficult to deal with when they are under the influence. Because of the nature of the business, it is not an open market and he sells only to regular buyers.
Chamu says the covert sale of beer is rampant at the Charge Office bus rank despite its closeness to the central police station and law enforcement officials.
“We’ve seen a lot of scuffles at our rank as a result of these beer sales and alcohol abuse,” Chamu said.
Harare kombi ranks have of late been associated with rowdy touts – believed to be drunk – verbally and physically assaulting passengers. Late last year, a woman was stripped of her clothes at Fourth Street rank because she was wearing a mini skirt. The assailants were touts believed to be under the influence of alcohol.
Godknows Charuma is a concerned passenger who has noticed the drinking that sometimes happens at Fourth Street kombi rank. Charuma said his major concern was crime related to binge drinking and drug abuse. “One way to address this problem is for the police and city officials to carry-out regular and surprise inspections at these ranks.”
The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MoHCW) says alcohol-related violence among binge drinkers is one of the biggest contributions to trauma, injury, and death. The current upsurge of drug and alcohol abuse in Zimbabwe is a cause for apprehension.
Acting Director of Health Services, Dr. Clemence Duri says not only does drug and alcohol abuse demobilize the body of the persons affected, but it has lasting health effects and poses a danger to others, often leading to stressful situations for those in proximity to a person under the influence.
The principal communications Officer City of Harare, Micheal Chideme, told Harare News that the practice of selling alcoholic beverages at city facilities like bus ranks is prohibited, and the municipal police is authorized to confiscate illicit products of that nature if anyone is found in possession.
The illegal sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages are punishable offences under Section 115 and 116 of the liquor Act. The same law prohibits drinking of alcohol in a public place.