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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 February 2006, 19:27 GMT
Law enrages Botswana bar owners
Letlhogile Lucas
BBC News, Gaborone

Crates of beer
Bar owners fear beer sales will drop
Botswana is to introduce a law that will reduce the number of hours that drinkers can enjoy a beer.

The government has amended the Liquor Act to say that beer can be sold for five hours every day and no beer to be sold on Sundays.

Bar and bottle store owners have vowed to confront the government. They say the change will ruin business.

With effect from 1 April this year, bars and bottle stores will open at 1700 and close at 2300.

They will remain shut on Sunday, when many Batswana go to church and other places of worship.

Onnalenna Kgosiemang of the Liquor Traders Association says the government is determined to go ahead with the amended law even though it has not consulted people in the liquor trade.

Political row

The proposed amendment has also pitted government against members of parliament - including some from President Festus Mogae's Botswana Democratic Party.

Keletso Rakhudu, MP for Gaborone North, believes that the new law will cause job losses among bars staff, as such businesses will not make any meaningful profits.

Bars and bottle stores form a significant part of the private sector in Botswana.

However, President Mogae blames alcohol for the spread of HIV/Aids and other social ills and believes its consumption must be controlled.

Critics of this move say that the new law will lead to mushrooming of backyard shebeens (unlicensed drinking dens) which will be difficult for government to monitor and control.

Many people I spoke believe it is the small man who will suffer, as bars are mostly small businesses whose owners struggle to make a living.

Do you think it is a good idea to clamp down on drinking hours? If implemented across Africa, would it help stop the spread of HIV/Aids and cut down on drunkenness and anti-social behaviour or would it lead to more illicit drinking dens? Should governments decide when and how we drink or is it up to the individual?

Let us know your views using the form below.

A selection of them will be broadcast on the BBC's Focus on Africa programme on Saturday 18 February at 1700 GMT.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Certainly! When one is drunk, one loses control over his senses and behaviour, and prostitutes know that, which explains why prostitutes gather at drinking places more than anywhere else. In that drunken state, men still want sex but fear less of HIV/Aids thus having unprotected sex!
Mabhureni P, Beitbridge Zimbabwe

Adults should be held responsible for their actions. Restricting alcohol will do no good because 1) there will be black market, which means lost of tax revenue and 2) small business will suffer, which means economy will suffer. The solution is to increase tax on the alcohol, therefore people won't drink too many beers at one time; and educate people about danger of over drinking at young age.
Al Shaw, Minnesota, USA

My sister lost her best friend in Molepolole, when the car he was in was involved in an accident because the driver was so drunk
Vera Bonsi

It is not a good idea to clamp on drinking hours as this will worsen the rate of unemployment which is already high in Africa. Drunkenness and anti-social behaviour will not go down as people will still drink as more unlicensed outlets will spread. As for the spread of HIV/Aids - more education campaigns will play a crucial role but not reducing drinking hours. It is up to an individual to decide how they drink however, it is still the responsibility of the government to ensure that its people's drinking habits do not promote the spread of HIV/Aids or anti-social behaviour. Consultation is therefore necessary before the government takes any action.
Abraham Malale, from Botswana studying in the UK

It's a very noble idea at face value. However, as we have seen time and time again, most sub-Saharan African governments' control and monitoring levels, which are not tight, will bring down this wise idea. Yes it will cause unemployment in the liquor industries, but in this day and age no economy is based solely on alcohol sales. Moreover, since HIV/Aids is involved, this is a good long-term strategy to avert the spread of this deadly disease. Congratulations to the brave government of the Republic of Botswana - it might cost them in votes, but it will save lives.
Jay Sibs, T-Dot, Canada

I think government of Botswana is being unreasonable. What about those people working at the bars will lost their jobs? I say let drinkers drink - it is their money.
Ndaedzo Ernest, South Africa

Finally, the government and its law makers are doing something about this. I am an undergraduate student in the USA, my family lives in Botswana and I used to live there. I nearly lost my life 3 years ago after been hit by a drunk driver. I was just about to leave for the US to study, with a scholarship and he could have taken all that away from me. My boyfriend saw this and was so excited by the law that he asked me to read this good news for myself. Last year my sister lost her best friend in Molepolole, when the car he was in was involved in an accident because the driver was so drunk. This guy is dead and gone while this criminal walks free. I feel there should even be more strict laws about sending drunk drivers to jail or even sentence them to death, if they cause an accident and it causes someone's death. I say, to the government and to Mogae, great job on this law and he should make sure it is passed. More laws in the future should be passed to regulate drinking.
Vera Bonsi, Tema, Ghana

Let democracy do its job. If the people don't like it they can vote the party out. If the government is doing its job then it is helping the people have a better way of life. If the representatives of the people are doing their duty then it isn't the place of liquor stores to say much. Perhaps it shows the pressure of the people and that is why it is changing anyway. I also believe it is showing the revival that is springing up of the Christian Faith.
Mike, Minnesota, USA

I strongly believe that anything should be done to hinder the HIV/Aids pandemic. And if that means the strong regulation of alcohol, so shall it be. It is horrendous what is happening in Botswana. Being one of the nations with the highest HIV/Aids infection in the world, the reports that I have received are shocking. Botswana is a party place, where alcohol flows like river, and sex is as common as handshaking here in Washington DC - while the whole world uses tax-payers money to fund anti HIV/Aids products and campaigns. I totally support President Mogae by trying to somehow control this nightmare. The youth especially have to wake up of their drunken lifestyles and realise that the entire world is expecting responsibilities from them. They should be fortunate that their government provides them with badly needed healthcare. This regulation might bring losses in the drinking business, but it will only bring sober responsibility to those Batswana that are irresponsibly spreading the deadly pandemic through Africa and the world.
David Schuster, Washington DC, USA

Yes, alcohol is a curse to Botswana. Botswana's social ills and developmental failings are in large part caused by alcohol.
Concerned Citizen, Gaborone, Botswana

What we need to do is to educate citizens to take responsibility in all areas of life. Laws do not make good people, but responsible people become good, mature, and democratic citizens. Thus opening bars for few hours will not bring the desired results but only more and more so-called illegal outlets. But a responsible person knows how to drink and behave responsible. In the face of HIV/Aids let us act as responsible men and women, even if we are drunk.
Saakiies, Windhoek, Namibia

In the western world, there are such regulations in place, talking about drinking hours, places to drink and not to drink etc, why has it now become something to fuss about in Africa? Most of domestic violence in the world, social ills and all anti-social vices can be traced to alcohol and consumption of illicit drugs. I strongly support the move and I hope other countries will follow suit.
Victor Owo, Eket, Nigeria

It's a good idea to clamp down on drinking, but let's face the honest truth - in Africa if you shut legal joints then illegal ones will prosper, and the last thing you want is to drive people underground as it's very hard to monitor what happens when cheap alternates that will offer longer open hours. There is no solution to reducing consumption of alcohol which ever way you look at it. The president of Botswana wants to try and ask the industry from brewers to sellers to contribute higher taxes which would go to educate about HIV.
ERIQ , Leeds, England

This is a very good move that other governments in Sadc (Southern Africa Development Community) ought to emulate. At the same time profitable occupations need to be put in place. In Malawi a good town population spends time and money on such a bad habit.
Timothy Mwale, Lilongwe, Malawi

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