THE remarks by Tourism and Culture Minister ’Mannete Ramaili that Lesotho is planning to fine-tune its National Alcohol Policy are very much welcome.
The idea, Ramaili said, is to cut the amount of alcohol that Basotho consume in a bid to contain the growing negative social effects of heavy drinking.
Admittedly, compared to our peers in the region Basotho are no heavy drinkers.
But still we need to acknowledge that we have challenges regarding the manner in which we are dealing with alcohol.
Basotho love their beer.
No ceremony can pass without a few drinks doing the rounds.
However we also seem to have real trouble handling “the holy waters”.
It is therefore important that we subject ourselves as a nation to some soul-searching on this matter.
Lesotho has had a national alcohol policy in place since 2007.
Over the last four years we have learnt our lessons the biggest of which being that having a policy and implementing that policy are two different things.
We have also learnt that the current policy, brilliant as it looks on paper, has its flaws.
It is precisely for these reasons that a review of the policy is in order if we are to tighten the law and ensure better health for Basotho.
The costs of not doing anything and pretending that all is well are too ghastly to contemplate.
The national policy document is a brilliant piece of work.
The problem, as we have argued above, has been in the implementation.
This could explain why in spite of having this policy in place since 2007 we still see many alcohol-induced acts of madness on a weekly basis.
Statistics are woefully in short supply in Lesotho but we would want to believe that this country’s murder rate is one of the highest in southern Africa apart from South Africa.
Most of these murders are committed by people who would be completely inebriated.
Most of the violence that we see, particularly at weekends, is alcohol-driven.
In a country with one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world we also see acts of reckless sexual behaviour.
We all know what alcohol can do to a person’s inhibitions.
It is precisely for these reasons that we feel a review of the alcohol policy is perfectly in order.
The government must come up with a clear policy that outlaws public drinking.
The age limits that bar minors from accessing alcohol must be strictly enforced.
The present laissez faire scenario should be a thing of the past. But these rules have been broken willy-nilly in the past.
This must stop.
We need tighter rules that make it difficult for minors to access alcohol.
The police must ensure that the ban on public drinking is forcefully applied.
It is in our interest as a nation that we drink responsibly.