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Alcohol consumption increases under Khama

Publishing Date : 27 February, 2018

Author : UTLWANANG GASENNELWE

President Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s administration failed in its attempts to fight alcohol abuse in the country.


Khama’s notable disdain for alcohol saw him introduce drastic measures including; a hefty fee as the alcohol levy, lately at 55%, in order to reduce its consumption. However it appears the punitive punishment for alcohol imbibers may be falling on deaf ears as more continue binge drinking alcohol and indulge in associated offences in the form of drunken driving, domestic violence, rape and murder.


Botswana Police Service (BPS) indicated through the Traffic Division statistics that alcohol consumption among Batswana especially with regard to drunken driving continue to swell. In fact the numbers have increased since 2008 when Khama took office and in the process introduced the levy.


During that year when Khama became president, 1118 number of cases was registered for motorists driving under the influence of alcohol. The number kept escalating in 2009 to 1538 and in 2010 they sat at 2464 while in 2011 the number ballooned to 2740. In 2012 more motorists were stopped for drunken driving at a whooping 3748, while 4495 were caught in 2013 and in 2014 the number again skyrocketed to 5187.


However there was a slight decrease in 2015 of the drunken drivers who were at 4882 and 4432 in 2016 while the number pierced through the sky again in 2017 when the Police registered the all time towering figure of 8218. Botswana Police also registered 255 fatal crashes in 2008 while in 2017 the number slightly increased to 366 in 2017. It also indicates that there were 455 people who died in 2008 due to accidents compared to 366 in 2017.


In terms of the accidents and casualties in which alcohol was a contributor, 14 people died in 2008 and the number also swelled to 23 lately in 2017. For the same period, 19 were detected as fatal crashes in 2017 from 10 in 2018. According to Khama, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2017, road accidents particularly which are a result of alcohol continue to be an issue of concern. “During 2016, there were a total of 450 deaths, while we recorded 328 fatalities as of 30 September 2017,” he highlighted then.


Apart from the accidents, Khama also pointed out that alcohol in its form continues to be a serious concern to his administration: “an evaluation of the National Alcohol Campaign has also been completed which found that the share of expenditure on alcohol and tobacco has decreased at national level, albeit increased in rural areas. While 60% of Batswana have indicated reduced drinking, drinking levels nonetheless remain high with about 18% being binge drinkers.”  


In terms of social impact Khama told the nation during SONA that the study further confirmed that alcohol abuse continues to have a negative health impact, as reflected, in part, in the high cost of treating associated injuries, which were estimated at P3, 580, 849 for the 2016/17 financial year. It is understood that the cost also prompted Khama to introduce the controversial health policy that denied medical coverage to people who got injured during alcohol related activities – although later rescinded.    


In addition, Khama told the nation that alcohol abuse is associated with increased domestic violence, theft, assaults, road traffic accidents, rapes and murder. Alcohol abuse further contributes to teenage pregnancies and STIs including HIV/AIDS, as well as the failure of some to adhere to their ART and TB treatment, he added. He also added that additional findings included the need for a more comprehensive advertising ban on alcoholic beverages and the lowering of breath and blood alcohol content limits for drivers under the Road Traffic Act.


According to Khama the findings further confirmed that the alcohol levy has coincided with decrease in the household expenditure on tobacco as well as alcohol at the national level. Since its inception when Khama took office, he said the levy has raised just over 2.6 billion pula.
Immaculate sources closer to the levy indicate that close to 12 million pula are channelled to Ministry of Health and Wellness, Department of Public Health under the Alcohol and Substance Abuse division. It is understood that the division gets around 1 million on monthly basis.


Apart from their Alcohol campaigns, the division also funds Botswana Police especially with regard to Mercedes Benz sprinter Booze buses, and also some Non Governmental Organisations like Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network (BOSASNet) who educate the public about dangers of alcohol.


The other larger chunk then goes to Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development to fund Youth businesses through Youth Development Fund (YDF). Department of Women’s Affairs also receives some to help fight gender violence. It is further understood that other unspecified funds then go to the government coffers.  


Meanwhile part of the money accrued from the alcohol levy was to be channelled to the construction of rehabilitation centres to assist alcohol addicts and binge drinkers as well as educate them on responsible drinking. Indications however suggest that albeit billions accrued from the alcohol levy, there is still no structure of any rehabilitation centres across the country.

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