Mozambique seeks to cap boozing
17 September 2013, 09:50
Maputo - In laidback Mozambique with its endless white sand
beaches and bustling markets, alcohol is easily available, but a proposed law
seeks to end the country's liberal drinking culture.
A crowd of teenagers gather at a street side bar playing
checkers using beer tops.
Crates of lager are stacked roof-high, while shelves groan
under rows of wine and whisky bottles.
At a nearby minibus depot, commuters spill out of their
rides and head for the bars and restaurants.
"It is always a party here - day or night," says
Joao, who tends a street stall or "barraka" selling booze in central
"It is different here than in other countries," he
said. "When people buy drinks, they drink in the road, not often at
The easy access to alcohol is blamed for a range of social
ills, notably abuse by minors, even though the legal drinking age is, in
The scourge is "becoming a "big health
problem", said Mozambique's National Public Health Director Mouzinho
Saide. "The worry is that alcohol
is starting to be consumed by people at an increasingly young age."
Until now there has been little or no control over where or
when liquor can be sold in Mozambique, where beach vendors peddle alcohol out
of cooler boxes day and night.
Moonshine with dangerously high alcohol content is easily
available in the bars lining the streets.
Some repackaged imported spirits, with apt names like
"Temptation" and "Lord Gin", sell for as little as $1 a
But the government recently proposed a new law designed to
crack down on boozing.
The raft of measures, developed in conjunction with the
liquor industry, would curb alcohol sales after 20:00 and ban the sale of booze
to under-age children, even if they are sent my older people.
The law would also ban giant public billboards from
advertising booze, and any liquor advert featuring children or
Bar patron Joao Celestino believes that most people indulge
in alcohol as an escape.
"They have no alternative, they are suffering a lot
," he said.
The former Portuguese colony is one of the world's poorest,
with most of its 23.4 million population living on a dollar or less a day.
The discovery of coal and natural gas deposits is likely to
boost its income, but for many times are still hard.
The country is also still suffering the effects of a nearly
three-decade-long civil war. Many survivors have found comfort in the bottle.
Pressing social issues
A study by the Institute of Public Health at University of
Porto, in Portugal, found that nearly a quarter of women and half of men drink
News of tougher laws has not been well received by consumers
Some angered drinkers believe that the government should be
tackling far more pressing social issues.
"This is the government's way of distracting us from
other problems," said one patron at a bar in central Maputo.
"Just look at the rubbish piled up in the
streets," he added.
Tito, a street vendor, told AFP that selling alcohol was his
He predicted that authorities would have little difficulty
getting the law though parliament, while enforcing it will not be easy.