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Tough times ahead for beer drinkers

Moleboheng Metsing

MASERU — The government says it plans to cut alcohol consumption to contain growing negative social effects of drinking. 

A committee was set up last week during a roundtable workshop to work on ways of ensuring people drink less.

“Alcohol dominates the lives of Basotho,” Tourism and Culture Minister ’Mannete Ramaili told workshop participants.

“Alcohol is everywhere and (is available) almost 24 hours a day in Lesotho; be it a celebration, a birthday party, a sports event, a traditional ceremony,” Ramaili said.

She added that even funerals do not attract any attendance if there is no alcohol.

The workshop was the first step in reviewing a National Alcohol Policy drafted in 2007, which  Ramaili said was flawed.

She said the policy particularly failed to address the issue of public drinking especially by minors.

“The policy lacks a public health perspective. It ignores local concerns and structures such as community policing. There are no restrictions on advertising for alcohol or sponsorship of sports and youth events.

“Worse still, there are no restrictions on the age limit for purchasing and consuming alcohol,” the minister said.

Global figures show Lesotho is not so much of a guzzlers’ nation compared with other countries in the region.

A report on alcohol consumption conducted by the World Health Organisation in 2004 says the annual consumption of pure alcohol in Lesotho is 1.83 litres per capita.

Botswana’s stand at 5.38 litres per capita, while in Tanzania figures are at 5.29 litres per capita. In Zimbabwe, the report puts figures at 5.08 litres per capita.

But Ramaili reckons the social cost of drinking has been unacceptably high in Lesotho hence the need for tighter controls.

“The current levels of social costs in the country are irreparable and they cannot be measured in maloti and lisente. They will never bring back the lives of our loved ones, neither will they return human dignity of the Basotho who have fallen into the trap of chronic alcohol abuse,” she said.

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