Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I have worked in the alcohol industry for the last five years on a distributor level. that said I consider myself an expert in the industry and a concerned party.
Many years past some Government bureaucrat decided that chang'aa,a native for Kenya by Kenya alcoholic drink that can stand shoulder to shoulder with any triple distilled drink you have to offer(at least in it's pure form), well the bureaucrat decided that it should be banned.
I will not dig into his reasons for doing so or how he robbed land and country of a fine opportunity to sell maybe globally a uniquely Kenyan drink,employ hundreds if not thousands of Kenyans in the production,sale and supply stages, what I will dwell on is the aftermath of this Government decision to ban chang'aa, the production of the drink went underground, it was quite risky at first such that not many individuals invested in the industry but those that did eat from those benefits to date, chang'aa in its illegal black market form became a clear gold for its producers and I dare say the law enforcers who looked the other way. news clips of the boys in blue collecting handouts from chang'aa distributors were a not uncommon sight. The profits in the illegal chang'aa business attracted more and more players and competition became rife, to beat their competitors and make their drink more potent the traders began using commercial chemical materials in the production of the drink, such matterials include bleach and morgue chemicals used for cadaver preservation. Juju was also put into play and ladies underpants seemed like the  vodoo tool of choice, these were thrown into the already potent mix to ensure customer loyalty, soon the revelers began to loose their jobs, families, eyesight and even their lives.
Government response was always swift after the calamities, many a small trader would be arrested news reporters in tow would record a few hundred litres o chang'aa get poured(wasn't that supposed to be evidence?)
To cut a long story short and get to my point, Chang'aa has alwasy been illegal, atleast its sale and nothing written on the Mututho law is likely to change that, in fact the law has thrown the mainstream liuer industry into confusion leaving the already prime under the radar chang'aa lords and ladies loughing all the way to the bank.
Mainstream business has had its hours of operation reduced, stiffer compliances to be met, its products tax increased and its license fees trippled or even quadrupled.
this Creates a vacuum that the Lords of Chang'aa are likely to fill in a flash. It also leaves alot of Kenyans with serious investment without businesses, many more jobless and desperate. tThis industry hires the unemployable in most of the other industries, 90% of the worlkers have no more than primary level education, real people who have dedicated themselves to their jobs will now end up jobless with no way of feeding themselves or their families, that is the reality of the situation and the Government needs to act now to stop this unfolding disaster.
There is need for Government to consult stake holders, enable the players to have a functional self regulating system and work on the enforcement of its laws since that is what has been lacking all along. We also need to grow a local product for the Global market as a foreign revenue earner, the French have champagne, the Russians their vodka and we have nothing but a misguided, ill reseached document called Mututho Law..

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Copy copy and Mama Akinyi; the effect of the Mututho laws in my estate.

Let me tell you the story of Copy copy and Mama Akinyil. This is a true story.
Where I work there is a pub nearby that sells the mwanainchi special pocket friendly senator keg drink. And usualy copy copy pub does brisking business with thirsty patrons hopping in and out at all hours of the day, on the other side of the road right opposite the Keg place and less than 20 meters from the chief's office is mama Akinyis chang'aa place, it also does brisk business with patrons coming and going through out the day.
Now as soon as the new laws became effective, copy copy remained closed through out the day while mama Akinyi remained open, now the thirsty patrons all flocked to the tax free chang'aa place during the day until five when the keg fans would cross the road to top up at copy copy's.
The chang'aa selling pubs all over the country remain in business on their regular hours, since chang'aa has always been illegal the operators of these places have developed symbiotic relationships with the law enforcers and thus have no fear of arrest, this relationship is known as 'kula na wao' or eating with them, them meaning the law enforcers.
Also next to copy copy's there is a 'school', well the sign at the gate says its a school though it has no playing ground as it is run in a building originaly intended to be a residential premises, in all ministry of education regulations this school should not even be registered, so one is left to wonder if Mr. Copy copy will be denied his license due to the proximity of his bar to this 'school'.Mama Akinyi has no worry about her businesses' proximity to the school as this year like all other years she will not apply for any license since her business is illegal, it has been since she was a child but that has never stopped any enterprising business person with the right skills.
As for copy copy he cant apply for a license yet since the liquor licensing courts are yet to be established and nobody at the DC's office could tell him when they would be formed.
Some of copy copy's patrons have been arrested and this adds to his sorrows,they were good customers that kept the place going, they took their drink at the wrong time and the law caught up with them. The prison where they are being kept is overcrowded and the warder admitted that the system may not be able to cope.
Copy copy will go home tonight at 11 pm counting his losses, he also feels that insecurity has gone up, nobody seems to be patroling th allyways strangely though they are always police hovering near his pub at arround clossing hour. Mama Akinyi will go home when the patrons have drunk to their fill, the new laws have been kind to her so far, as far as she is concerned chang'aa is now legal.
The new laws may be good but so were those that had declared chang'aa and other illicit brews illegal, the problem has always been the enforcement of these laws which is done in a partial and corrupt way. if we expect the same officers that have failed to enforce the old laws by taking advantage and enriching themselves to enforce thes new laws effectively,then we are doomed to failure.
Neither the public,the government licencing committes, the overcrowded prisons, the court system full of backlogs of cases and especialy the police force corrupt in its enforcement of the old laws is ready for this new law,so who is it benefiting to rush into its implementation,they say the fool runs in where angels fear to tread.