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Zimbabwean Ministers Disown Proposed Tougher Alcohol Sales Policy

Ministers from all three governing parties said there are many issues needing more urgent attention than regulating alcohol without clear research showing its consumption is a serious national problem

Some members of Zimbabwe's Cabinet are distancing themselves from reports that the government is drafting a tough national alcohol policy that will regulate the sale of beer and other intoxicating beverages with sales forbidden after noon on Sundays.

Ministers from the three parties sharing power in a national unity government said the Cabinet has not yet tabled the alcohol policy document drafted last year by presidential health adviser Timothy Stamps, contrary to recent news reports.

The ministers said there are many issues needing more urgent attention than regulating beer without clear research showing alcohol consumption is a serious problem.

Under the draft regulations, alcohol would be sold only from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday until noon. Pregnant women would be discouraged and teenagers would be prohibited from purchasing alcoholic beverages.

Social Welfare Minister Paurina Mpariwa told VOA that there are no indications of a link between poverty in Zimbabwe and the consumption of alcohol.

“There is need for research before making conclusions about some of these issues and we cannot afford to talk about alcohol issues now as Zimbabweans want us to address bread and butter issues,” Mpariwa told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube.

Development worker Liberty Bhebhe said the proposed alcohol policy would not positively change the lives of Zimbabweans.

Religion Minister Rev. Ray Motsi said the Cabinet or Parliament must surely have run out of ideas if they advance such a policy. "I cannot imagine ministers tabling such proposals when our people are struggling to make ends meet,” Motsi said.