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Unemployed Zim Youths Drown Sorrows in Illicit Beer

An empty bottle of Double Punch seen in a Bulawayo street. (Story and Photo: Memory Muzenda)

An empty bottle of Double Punch seen in a Bulawayo street. (Story and Photo: Memory Muzenda)

Some imported spirits or intoxicants have become part of life for most youths in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, where they drink potent brands with an instant kick.

These spirits can send someone into a drunken stupor within minutes and have a devastating effect on people’s health, including swollen feet and loss of memory.

A high number of unemployed youths in the city, facing unemployment blues coupled with an increase in poverty in Zimbabwe, have resorted to drinking imported alcoholic beverages such as Tentacco, popularly known here as Thathankawu, Double Punch and cheap children’s cough syrup.

Most youths say they are currently drowning their sorrows in these imported substances as they cannot afford to buy local spirits, opaque and other beer brands manufactured by Delta Corporation’s National Breweries.

Worse still, they say the locally-brewed Ingwebu beer or amasese, and other brands are now out of reach for most of them as they are struggling to make ends meet. They are engaged in activities like being kombi touts or selling sweets and cigarettes.

An average 375 milliliter can of beer which contains about 5 percent alcohol costs around US$1.10, and a 750ml bottle of Gin containing 40 percent alcohol costs US$7. They say they cannot afford to buy these brands due to lack of formal jobs.

As a result, they are drinking anything they can lay their hands on, including children’s cough syrup sold on the black market called Bron Cleer, popularly known as Bronco – for bronchitis. If one takes the medication, which is only $3, it has an immediate impact like the effects of bronchitis, a disease that literally goes for the throat.

An unidentified young man drinks Bronco outside a shop in Bulawayo. (Photo: Memory Muzenda)

An unidentified young man drinks Bronco outside a shop in Bulawayo. (Photo: Memory Muzenda)

According to medical experts, a 120 milliliter bottle of the substance which contains codeine can cause light headedness and dizziness.

Moses Mlambo, a 20 year old unemployed youth says the cough syrup has become a favourite among his peers.

“We drink this bronco because it is highly intoxicating and it lasts longer than other substances on the market because it is a very strong drink,” says Mlambo.

Although Bron Cleer syrup is available through prescription in selected pharmacies, both Moses and his friend, David Ndlovu, say they have no trouble getting it from street vendors.

“They don’t give us that substance without a prescription but we get it in street corner. We know guys who sell that substance so when we get to those corners they will come and sell it to us.”

Other youths, however, say they prefer drinking an illicit spirit known as Double Punch because it is less expensive than Bronco.

Double Punch also known as Zimbabwe’s Emergency Drink (ZED) is an illegally brewed spirit which is smuggled into the country from Mozambique containing 43 percent alcohol. In a display of potency, the container has an image of a muscular man launching a forward punch.

Nqobani Moyo, a 25 year old young man from Cowdray Park suburb, says ZED remains his favourite despite the widespread availability of Bronco because it only costs $1.

Most of the youths say they know the dangers of consuming such alcoholic beverages but cannot avoid it due to lack of jobs. They believe that their future is bleak as the Zimbabwe economy continues shrinking at a fast pace following recent general elections won by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Members of Alcoholic Anonymous say there is a probability that consumers of these substances are slowly becoming alcoholics as they are forced to engage in daily drinking sprees to drown their sorrows.

The youths appear to be almost down and out but sticking to the bottle.