The Alcohol Levy, this week, reached another milestone in its periodic rise, Government announced a 10 percent increase, taking it to 55 percent. This means the price of alcohol will be shooting through the ceiling with immediate effect.
The introduction of the alcohol levy and its constant rise has been attributed to President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s disdain for liquor abuse and its contribution to social ills. President Khama has never hidden his dislike for the alcoholic drinks, saying they serve no real purpose in people’s lives.
Initially, President Khama had announced a 70 percent levy but settled for 30 percent. President Ian Khama introduced the controversial alcohol tax in 2008 after becoming the Head of State in an attempt to curb excessive drinking.
LEVY NOW TRAGETS PRODUCTION COSTS This time the levy will hit hard on all products, including imported liquor from Namibia and South Africa. Another new element brought about by the latest statutory instrument is that the levy targets production costs and not just the alcohol component. It will target 55 percent of production costs which includes such elements as labelling and canning, among others.
THE GENESIS Khama first broached the issue of an alcohol levy in 2008, at a kgotla meeting in Gabane, catching unawares, the then Minister of Trade and Industry Neo Moroka who expressed ignorance about the intention to introduce the levy, after the President’s announcement. Little did he know that President Khama was serious and it was implemented without consultations with relevant authorities.
The levy came with a reduction of operating hours for liquor outlets and a clamp down on homebrews which were traditionally sold from homesteads; the requirement was that these opaque and brews would be sold from registered and licensed depots.
December is seemingly the customary increase month as the levy reached 45 percent from the initial 30 percent. In December 2013, it went up to 50 percent after a five percent increase. This week, Government imposed a further 10 percent on the levy, bringing it to 55 percent.
Furthermore, the percentage will now be billed on all production costs of alcoholic product instead of the selling price as before. Imported brands, which are hugely popular in the country will also for the first time, be subjected to the levy.
THE AFTERMATH OF THE LEVY
The result of the existence of the levy so far is that, some of the Companies in the alcohol industry have lost their value and employees have lost jobs, with Kgalagadi Breweries Limited closing down its Palapye plant in 2012. Former consumers of clear beer who could not afford the higher prices of their favourite drinks are reported to have resorted to cheaper, harmful alternatives. On the other hand, those who could afford the higher prices simply continued to buy their favourite alcoholic beverages.
On the other hand, the Alcohol levy has not seen a marked reduction in the use of alcohol in the country as originally envisaged. A study conducted by University of Botswana and associated institutions in 2011; found that 60 percent of respondents said they drink the same quantities regardless of the levy and its increases, while 27 percent said that they drink less because of the tax. The reduction of hours, relative to the price increases, has been noted as being better effective at curbing excess use of alcohol.
…AND A SWELLING FUND
However, the levy has become a huge cash cow for Government pet projects. “The Alcohol Levy, as one of interventions to combat harmful effects of alcohol has as of June 2014 collected a cumulative total of P1.441 billion. Government further developed a National Framework for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment which will guide the delivery of rehabilitation services,” said President Khama in his State of the Nation address at the beginning of the 11th Parliament in November this year.
While the expectation had been that the Levy Fund would be used for alcohol use and abuse interventions, the Fund has found use in funding the recent Botswana Africa Youth Games and other purposes.
In Botswana, it seems that the country’s alcohol consumption has reached very high proportions. In a study conducted by the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA), 64.4 percent of males in the study reported that they voluntarily engage in drinking as opposed to the 35.5 percent of females who reported voluntary drinking episodes.
Of those who consume alcohol 54 percent are binge drinkers who consume. Of those who consume alcohol, 54 percent are binge drinkers who consume more than 5 drinks in one day Therefore it is very important to investigate the more than 5 drinks in one day.
Besides the consumer’s pockets, the biggest brewer in the country, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited has been the hardest hit by the existence of the Alcohol levy. The company, which is owned by SABMiller and the Botswana Stock Exchange listed Sechaba Brewery Holdings, has had to innovate constantly to beat the effects of the Levy on its bottom line.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.