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Title:Articulating regional and ethnic dissent? Bulawayo's politicians and their campaigns to legalise shebeens: 1980-2012
Author:Mpofu, BusaniISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies (ISSN 1465-3893)
Geographic term:Zimbabwe
alcohol policy
Abstract:Public policy in relation to alcohol consumption is still a contested terrain in southern African cities characterized by a heavy-drinking culture that tends to manifest itself in the form of shebeens (illicit African drinking houses). Many such cities have well-known histories of colonial regulation that aimed to control alcohol production and consumption around African townships. This article analyses another socio-political trajectory that has been unfolding in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, which is known for its widespread shebeen operations. Since independence in 1980, politicians and a range of civic/residents' associations in the city have campaigned for the legalisation of shebeens. In particular, shebeens have been defended as necessary to address lack of economic opportunity in the city, as institutions that should be celebrated because of their supportive role during the nationalist era, as offering alternative, more respectable, drinking venues than beer halls for the middle class, and as part of an urban African tradition that should be celebrated in independent Zimbabwe. Some of these leaders have also argued that Matabeleland Province in which Bulawayo is located, which is dominated by the Ndebele-speaking people and other minorities, is being marginalized and sidelined in the allocation of financial resources for development because of ethnic bias and regionalism. This article, based on archival, newspaper and interview sources, argues that these unique campaigns by Bulawayo's politicians are embedded in the intricate politics of regionalism and ethnicity. The shebeen campaigns mask the articulation of broader dissent against both central and local government authorities, who remain opposed to shebeen operations. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]