Former Minister Sarah Opendi`s fresh Bill she seeks to use to regulate the brewing of alcohol, importation, selling, marketing and consumption, is a mixed bag of joy and lamentations. People who earn a living off alcohol plus those who derive fun from taking the stuff are cursing. Yet those who treat it as anathema are jubilating.
Ugandans rank high up there on the continent’s horizon, when it comes to matters of romancing the bottle, gourd or Kaveera. Check out the President, he will be able to tell to you how fans of alcohol are continuously making his tax wallet happy. Gen Yoweri Museveni is a teetotaler. But he knows better than to spoil the beer binges.
He is fully aware alcohol industry players and the consumers deposit some really good money in the country’s kitty. The brewers plus the outlets for alcohol aren’t complaining too, thanks to Ugandans’ huge appetite for liquor. Subsequently, Ugandans are watching keenly and waiting with bated breath to see what is going to follow should madam Opendi end up having her music danced to in parliament.
The preliminary hurdle is out of Opendi’s way. Parliament Speaker, Anita Annet Among Magogo has already given greenlight to her to finetune her Bill and table it for debate. To put the record straight, any activity, regardless of the tax collectable from it, needs to be regulated for the good of the partakers thereof, the general citizenry plus the country itself.
Alcohol isn’t a bad thing perse. Those who patronize it says it’s their right to consume the stuff. But they need to be informed reckless use of the same can lead to life threatening diseases such as liver ailments and others such as reduced libido, not to mention mental health problems. Alcohol is also pointed out to be one of the major causes of road accidents and domestic violence.
No one wants to lose their life to a road accident just because they had imbibed too much an alcohol. Neither would a family look favorably at a drunkard after taking the life of its own through knocking him or her dead, let alone fighting to death a fellow merrymaker. As such, users of alcohol need to remember always that, much as its fun doing so, they do bear a corresponding obligation not to overdo it as to abuse it.
Since, by abusing alcohol, they can mostly like end up causing lots of undesirable problems to themselves and to the community at large. Sarah Opendi’s Bill should therefore be appreciated in the spirit of protecting the health of the users of alcohol themselves. For the case of brewers plus outlets for alcohol, I want to think none of the two crucial players would certainly wish to lose any customer via acts of reckless drinking.
Let alone their businesses being scandalized by a rise in domestic violence, road accidents plus mental health cases occasioned directly or indirectly by alcohol abuse. In that regard, the Bill seeks to bring sanity and order in the chain of brewing, importation, selling, marketing plus the final leg of taking of alcohol. That one is ideally done via pieces of written regulations and laws clearly setting out the dos and don’ts followed by penalties for breaching each one of them.
Let’s now set out what Opendi seeks to criminalize plus the penalties involved for the breaches thereof for the interest of whoever it may concern. The bill outlaws the unlicensed manufacture, trading in or retail and wholesale purchase of alcohol without the requisite license. The Bill also proposes a UGX10M fine to be meted out to any breacher of the code or a five-year custodial sentence.
Wait on. But the court will be absolutely free to impose the two penalties simultaneously, depending on the circumstances of each case. Opendi proposes a license to be imposed on those dealing in importation of alcohol from outside the country. Failure to abide by the prospective law will come with a ten-year custodial sentence to the offender or a fine worth twenty million shillings.
Still, the court will be at liberty to impose both sentences on the offender of the code. The Bill outlaws the selling of alcohol before midday and beyond 6am. Failure to heed to the code, will attract a twenty million fine or an imprisonment of up to ten years or both. Opendi seeks beer depots, trucks of alcohol, big wholesale points, exhibitions in respect of alcohol as well as supermarkets to be an exception to the code.
Should the proposed law see the light of the day, drinking alcohol aboard public transport vehicles and selling the stuff thereon, will henceforth become illegal. Offenders thereof will be subjected to a four million shillings fine or a six months custodial sentence or both. Selling out alcohol to a security officer wearing an official uniform will be an offence punishable by a four million fine or a one year term in jail or both.
A security officer caught taking alcohol while dressed in official fatigues, let alone, hanging out in a bar while not on a mission to stop wrongdoing or to cause arrest over wrongdoing, will be liable to fork out a four million shillings fine or to serve a six months custodial sentence or both.
No one will be permitted to sell to, buy for or even send out a person under 18 years to buy alcohol for him or her. Doing so, will come with the heaviest penalty above all others worth forty million shillings and, in the alternative, a three-year jail term or both. Employing a person below 18 years as a bar tender or to work in any kind of a bar related job will attract a twenty million fine or a two-year jail term or both.
Any licensed dealer in respect of alcohol will be required to strictly put up clearly visible notices setting out the dangers of using alcohol. Breach thereof will come with an eight million shillings fine or eight-year jail term or both. Running an alcohol related Ad bearing distorted info in order to trap users into taking the stuff, will be punishable by a twenty million shillings fine or a ten-year imprisonment or both.
The Bill sets out sensitization measures in regard to dangers of using alcohol, rehabilitation and treatment of abusers of alcohol and how to help to revive victims of serious hangovers occasioned by excessive alcohol consumption. Now that you know, you are at liberty to critique Madam Opendi’s Bill from an informed background. Enjoy safely and keep tight over the fun-filled weekend and may you get over it all safe and sound to embark on yet another round of successful hustles during the week ahead. Thank you.
- Mr. Stephen Kasozi Muwambi is a seasoned crime investigative writer, majoring in judicial-based stories. His two decades’ experience as a senior investigative journalist has made him one of the best to reckon on in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected]
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