by Ester Mbathera
RETAILERS have had to stop the sale of alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of less than 3% from today until the end of Stage 2 of Namibia’s Covid-19 lockdown period on 2 June.
New state of emergency regulations applying during Stage 2 of the lockdown period are prohibiting the sale and purchase of all alcoholic drinks, regardless of the level of alcohol they contain. The new regulations were published in the Government Gazette on Monday.
According to the Liquor Act of 1998, liquor is defined as “any spirituous liquor or any wine or beer containing three percent or more by volume of alcohol, excluding methylated spirit”.
Homebrews and any drink or concoction containing 3% or more alcohol by volume are also classified as liquor.
During the first three weeks of Namibia’s lockdown period, the 3% definition was used to put pressure on the government, and eventually led to the government consenting to the sale of alcoholic drinks with an alcohol content of less than 3%, such as Tafel Radler and Windhoek Light beer, over the past two weeks.
However, under the new regulations, liquor is now defined as any spirits, wine, beer, cider or other beverage containing alcohol intended for human consumption, excluding alcohol intended to be used for medicinal purposes.
“This new definition made away with the more than three percent content of alcohol in the liquor but now refers to any liquor that has alcohol in it. This is where Radler is no more because it has alcohol content irrespective of low percentages,” explained legal scholar and Namibia University of Science and Technology lecturer Bernhard Tjatjara.
Justice minister Yvonne Dausab said on Tuesday that the removal of the 3% alcohol content threshold was a conscious policy decision by the Cabinet to prohibit the sale of any alcoholic beverage regardless of the alcohol content.
“This was primarily because of complaints from law enforcement agencies that the earlier definition was creating a loophole for some people who started buying and consuming alcoholic beverages under 3% in big quantities. But also, a large segment of our population felt it was creating an unnecessary divide and it made sense that all alcohol be prohibited to avoid concerns from any particularly group,” said Dausab.
She warned that the police have the right under the Criminal Procedure Act to confiscate alcohol from anyone found carrying it on them.
“Not everyone will be happy so let’s focus on getting through Stage 2,” said Dausab.