For the love of alcohol: Risking all for a pint of beer. “Vanamukoma vauya, mahwani atanga (The boys have arrived; we are in trouble),” one guzzler shouted as he made good his escape. It was more of an automatic drill as some guzzlers hid in ditches, while others leapt into a nearby bushy area. The daring ones dashed to safety in nearby houses.
We were sharing lewd jokes and firing barbs at each other at an illegal drinking joint in Kuwadzana Extension, Harare, on Sunday evening when an army truck suddenly pulled up and people scattered in different directions.
Experienced imbibers simply dropped their beer bottles and walked home as if nothing had happened. Unlucky fellows who were caught up in the melee were held by their waist belts and thrown into the truck.
Yours truly feigned car trouble and was told to drive home immediately. “Iwe mudhara ibva pano nechimota chako (Hey old man, can you go away with your ramshackle vehicle),” shouted a youthful and friendly soldier while affording me time to drive off.
Such is the new normal wrought by the coronavirus. It is no longer business as usual. Playing hide-and-seek with law enforcement agents has become a way of life in the ghetto.
Coronavirus is wreaking havoc, yes, but people still want time away from home to quaff their beers and unwind from pressing demands of life like transport challenges and shorter working hours, which translate into reduced revenue. Now that shopping centres are heavily policed to flush out unscrupulous shop-owners, especially those who sell alcohol from the back door, guzzlers have since devised new ways to consume the wise waters.
Beer is now being served on the outskirts of high-density areas like Glen Norah, Highfield, Budiriro, Tafara, Mabvuku and Kuwadzana. Some “enterprising” businesspeople are now selling chilled wise waters from their car boots.
“My brother, here we sell beer, not temperature. If you want beer I have it in abundance, but if you want a cold one, that is something else. I have come to sell beer and not temperature,” a dreadlocked “beerpreneur”, as these lads have come to be known, told this writer straight in the face at a makeshift drinking joint in Kuwadzana.
His struggle was to feed his family. “My brother, coronavirus kills and the Government is doing all in its power to protect people, but at the end of the day my children need food on the table. It is difficult for a man of my age to go home empty-handed and expect someone to feed me.
“I will never stop selling beer as long as there are consumers. Tirikutofa necash hedu isu vamwe imi magraduates makati vavava,” the bloke said proudly before staggering away to serve another customer.
So popular have these ‘bush’ bottle stores become that you would think proper bottle stores are now unfashionable. Illegal beerpreneurs usually stash their stock in holes and sacks filled with ice. Dogs are commonly tied at the spots to ward off criminals.
The beer is sold in US dollars only and trying to use the local currency invites a serious tongue-lashing. “We do not take Zim dollars here. If you do not have US dollars, you can wait until you get the greenback then we can talk, but without this, enda hako kumba.”
Most operators of these boot and bush bottle stores said they always have ready cash to bribe law enforcement agents that might want to spoil the fun. The situation is the same in new suburbs like Crowhill, Gazebo, Retreat and Waterfalls.
These bush bottle stores also have eats. There are so many young boys and women who will be selling roasted pork, beef, gizzards and boiled eggs. It is also not easy to buy beer and meat from these people if you are not known.
“Mukuwasha, I do not sell beer. If you go to Delta who make this beer, there is no limit as to how many crates of beer one can buy. I bought this beer for my relatives and sons who are in Dubai because they enjoy Zimbabwean beer,” said one immaculately dressed lady while showing this writer the way out of her illegal drinking joint in Crowhill.
She only “assisted” me after being told by some people that I meant no harm.
Not to be outdone, Warren Park has been turned into a community of shebeens, perhaps to make way for closed night clubs. People are drowning their sorrows drinking in the comfort of strangers’ homes, which are also being frequented by women of easy virtue.
It is a sorry state of affairs as our daughters are also peddling their flesh oblivious of the fact that those who drink beer in hiding will always be seen drunk and have their morality and chastity questioned.
Mutambo wemujecha! The coronavirus, gentle reader, has brought a new normal in the way we survive and tighter measures are needed to ensure movement is restricted and violators of lockdown rules are brought to book. Inotambika mughetto.