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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 18:43 GMT
Swazi police target marula drinkers
Marula fruit
Drinkers say there is no hangover
By Bhekie Matsebula in Mbabane

Police in Swaziland have issued strict warnings against the sale and consumption of marula, an intoxicating fruit drink that has unleashed chaos on the southern African kingdom.

Traffic accidents have risen to alarming levels, as have drunken brawls and work absenteeism since the marula fruit came into season earlier this month.

At just R5 (45 cents) a litre, the beer made from the marula fruit - which is similar to the mango - is Swaziland's favourite tipple.

Marula drinkers say the beer is invigorating and does not cause bad hangovers.

And the police are clearly alarmed.

Traffic chaos

Every one of the 30 deaths last year on Swaziland's roads were attributed to marula drinking.

This year, police spokesman Vusi Masuku said traffic police would not hesitate to lock up any driver found even carrying the drink in his car, let alone driving drunk.

Marula tree
The season ends in April

The marula drinking season is even worse than Christmas and New Year, he said.

Police have also warned street vendors that they will arrest anyone found selling the traditional liquor.

A ban has also been imposed on drinking marula in public.

Mr Masuku said that at least four people had been killed so far this year in marula-fuelled brawls.

In one incident, a man and a woman were stabbed to death in Siteki after they ran amok through the small town after a marula binge.

Authorities are also concerned at the number of Swazis who lose their jobs because of their marula habit, many of whom are the main family breadwinner.

Economic losses

On the economic front, Swaziland Brewers - the only western beer manufacturer in the country - has already suffered stunning losses.

Bottle stores and pubs have already reported a decline in sales and most of them said they order no more beer or any other liquor until April, when the marula season comes to an end.

The Ministry of Enterprise and Employment together with town and city councils have said they will step up patrols in streets and parks to clamp down on illegal peddlers.

City police in Mbabane have also added extra patrols in places such as Coronation Park in an attempt to deter any potential lunch-time drinkers.

But the appetite for the drink is insatiable, and buses and trucks carrying loads of 25-litre containers of marula beer are still a common sight on the roads.

See also:

14 Dec 01 | Africa
'Pee inspectors' roam Swazi town
04 Dec 01 | Africa
Profile: Troubled King Mswati
28 Sep 01 | Africa
Swazi king takes eighth wife
17 Sep 01 | Africa
Swazi King sex ban
25 Jul 01 | Africa
Swazi king bows to pressure
25 Jun 01 | Africa
Anger at Swazi media decree
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Swaziland
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