Increase in Namibia liquor smuggling

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Namibian police report an increase in people smuggling beer and whisky from neighbouring Angola and Zambia, using illegal border crossings to beat a ban on alcohol sales that is part of the country’s plan to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The south western African nation has, like other countries, matched restrictions on movement with curbs on liquor to enforce social distancing – a strategy challenged by some experts and unpopular with many.

Namibia has to date seen 16 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with no deaths. Under lockdown laws, only the sale of liquor with an alcohol content of three percent or less is permitted.

Police spokesman Linekeela Shikongo told local media there was an “overwhelming increase” in the sale of Angolan beer in northern Namibia, while the Zambezi region saw a steep rise in spirits smuggled from Zambia.

Sparsely populated Namibia is one of Africa’s biggest countries by land mass, sharing largely porous borders with South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola.

Namibia is one of the top-ten beer consumers globally per capita.

“So far we arrested a number of smugglers and bottles were confiscated,” said Zambezi police commander Karel Theron.

He added “a number of illegal immigrants” were arrested but later released, due to lack of space in police cells.

“We have accommodation problems for inmates. We cannot accommodate all of them,” the police commander said.

Namibia, like South Africa, has been under lockdown since March 27, with only essential services workers allowed to travel. In Zambia, only Kafue, a town in south-central Zambia and surrounds, is in a total lockdown.