Kachasu shebeens: A menace to society

These women in a local Zambian village do all the daily work that needs to be done, yet they remain second-class citizens in many ways

IT is slightly after 10:00 hours in the morning on a beautiful Friday and a local drunk popularly known as John is seen crawling across the Kalimba Farm road from Chelstone going to his house in Kamanga.
He is so drank that he fails to get up so he continues to crawl like a snake until he reaches the safety of the other side while speeding vehicles hoot to avoid running over him.
John finally rolls himself into a drainage while urinating on himself as if a sign of relief that no vehicle hit him much to the delight of a small crowd mainly children who had gathered to watch him.
Meanwhile, a few minutes into the heart of Kamanga Township, a noticeably nosy group of women gather around a small table sipping some cloudy liquid which turned out to be the local brew Kachasu.
The visibly drank women do not mind being in that state in the early hours of the morning when their fellow mothers are busy in their homes tending to their families.
A walk around the township reveals that the house where the women are drinking from is, but one of the many shebeens in the community frequented by women at odd hours, as a way of socialising.
One of the residents of the area who spoke on condition of anonymity is disappointed with the lack of modesty by the women in Kamanga Township who she says currently frequent bars more than the menfolk.
“I do not understand what is happening in Kamanga. women now drink kachasu more than the men. In fact they are the ones brewing the illicit beer at their homes while their husbands go out to work,” she said.
She said at some shebeens, mothers are even incorporating their children in the business of brewing the illicit beer.
She called on the relevant authorities to work to conduct inspections in the township and ensure that the illegal shebeens are shut down to save the children
Apart from Kamanga Township, hundreds of Zambians in Lusaka’s townships have either been homeless or killed by deadly illicit brews such as kachasu in recent years.
Both men and women gradually give up family leadership and take to drinking cheap but potent local brews to temporarily make them forget their miseries. In these dens, the more men and women drink, the more they get addicted and the more they stop being financially and sexually productive.
A story is told in these townships where teenage children have stopped school and opt to brew kachasu.
Women in Kamanga, Msisi and Chaisa townships are known to have complained bitterly that their men stopped performing their conjugal and marital obligations a long time ago due to alcohol abuse.
In the same township two months, a woman escaped lynching from an angry mob when word went round that she had caused the death of her six month old baby girl by sleeping on it while in a drunken stupor.
The woman aged between 25 and 30, who are suspected to have returned from her usual morning drinking spree only discovered the body of her baby around 09:00 hours.
According to eye witnesses, who identified the woman as Mama Lubemba Kachasu, said the woman attracted the attention of the neighbours and on-onlookers after she started screaming, accusing people of having killed her daughter.
“Because she looked drank as usual, people after looking at the body which was still in her bed immediately pounced on her as they suspected that the baby’s death had been caused by suffocation,” said one of the neighbours identified only as Mrs Mundia.
She said the woman told the angry mob that she had not checked on her baby after she returned from her drinking spree in the early hours of  the morning and having taken a nap for an hour or so , she woke up around 06:00 hours  and again went back to drink. She the woman came back home around 09:00hours only to discover that her baby was dead.
“This angered people because we cannot understand how a mother of four children can drink to such an extent that she cannot bother to check on her own child the whole night and in the morning when she woke up,” Mrs Mundia said.
Mrs Mundia said the suspect was only rescued by some good Samaritans who whisked her away until police from Kamanga and Chelstone went to the scene.
Kamanga residents have since called on Lusaka City Council to intensify inspection of illicit beer brewing in the area.
The residents have also attributed criminal activities, increased beer drinking by women and moral decayed to the mushrooming of shabeens in the area.
A resident Ester Mwale said what beats logic is why, after so many years of law enforcement training and practice, the police have never contained excessive brewing of dangerous liquids that pass for alcohol.
A casual walk in the compounds revealed to the Sunday Mail the damage that illicit alcohol consumption has caused the country in terms of many young and productive lives.
People brew kachasu at their homes, in gardens and in garages. They have no means of testing alcohol content levels in their brew and they go on and sell it directly to the people for consumption.
A young man between the age of 15 and 17 years in Lusaka’s Misisi Township narrated to the Sunday Mail crew on how the kachasu beer is distilled and how much it is sold at.
Moses Lungu said kachasu is brewed from maize or finger millet and various fruits like bananas, oranges and apples could be used.
Lungu said the process involves adding the carbohydrate sources such as maize husks to warm water in a pot which has a hole drilled on the side. Once heated up for a few minutes, it is taken off the fire, cooled down and sugar and yeast are added.
The pot is completely sealed with clay and allowed to ferment for four to seven days. Following this, a narrow pipe encased with cool water is connected to the hole in the pot. The pot is placed on a fire and once boiling, the narrow pipe condenses or cools any hot vapours escaping from the pot into a liquid which is collected in small containers.
He said kachasu sold in a 300-litre bottle is sold at K4 while a Kachasu filled bottle of autumn harvest goes at K8.00.
And Lusaka City Council (LCC) public relations officer Henry Kapata said the council inspectors will soon move in the townships to conduct a spot check.
“The council regulation does not allow the brewing of illicit beer like kachasu because the content is not known and no one is given a license to brew illicit beer,” he said.
Mr Kapata said after the spot check, they will involve the police to enforce the law because police could only move in upon receiving a report from the council.
He said the council has also banned the packaging of any spirit liquor in a plastic bottle or sachets for hygiene reasons as plastics and sachets are being recycled.
Mr Kapata said all spirit beer should be packaged in a bottle a minimum of 200 milligram is allowed.
Renowned Zambian urologist Francis Manda said kachasu drinking is harmful to human health because the local brew has high alcohol content that rapidly burns the liver.
Dr Manda said Kachasu which is over 45 percent  in alcohol content affects the immune system as well as the skin texture by causing dehydrating whether a person baths or not.
He said Kachasu drinking also brings about stomach ulcers due to its acidic nature to the body.
“Kachasu has a deeper psychological and physiological effect that generate propensity towards civil disobedience and leads to family breakdown.” he said
Despite, all the known reasons why one should avoid illicit drinking, Zambia continues to see an increase in people taking up illicit beer brewing. One wonders how many lives must be lost before long term stringent measures are put in place.