[By Thomas Ngala and Edwin Mbulo]

LUSAKA Province minister Bowman Lusambo has condemned the move by some bar owners who have given a deaf ear to President Edgar Lungu’s directive to have all bars closed in order to curtail the COVID-19 spread.

The minister said in his post on Facebook yesterday that he received some complaints from concerned citizens about some bars, which were still operational in Lusaka.

Lusambo said the move by a few “selfish” bar owners to keep their bars running was retrogressive as it endangered the lives of the people.

“We are now a few days into the presidential directives aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19. As Lusaka Province minister, I wish to commend the residents who have headed to the President’s call. However, it is disappointing that some individuals and some bars are still carrying on as business as usual. Last [Friday] evening, I received a number of complaints from concerned residents that some bars and taverns, especially those in our compounds, are still operating. This is a very retrogressive and selfish move as it endangers the lives of all our people. Let me commend some popular drinking places such as Chicago’s, Capone, Granddad and several others who have since closed their premise,” he said.

The minister stated that those that disregard the directive deserve to be punished.

“As government, we have set the right tone in the fight against COVID-19 and it is expected that each and every one of us will join the fight. It should be stated that presidential decrees are basically law and it therefore follows that all should obey. Those that disregard the directives deserve to be punished,” he said.

Lusambo, however, directed the Lusaka City Council to move in, shut down and confiscate Liquor Licenses for all those bars and taverns still operating.

He stressed that “we shouldn’t wait to go the Italian way and suffer the catastrophe that our friends in Italy have had to ensure. We have some time on our side to do the correct thing before it’s too late. The lives of our people will not be sacrificed for a few selfish bar owners.”

In Livingstone’s Malota compound, shebeen owners defied President Lungu’s directives to close bars.

A check by The Mast found the shebeens open and blaring with loud music.

Most of the drinkers were not even observing hygiene standards by taking turns sipping the opaque beer from plastic containers.

In the main business trading area, most bars were partially open occasionally allowing trusted customers to sneak in to drink behind closed doors.

In Dambwa’s God Knows area, a lot of, drunk youths were seen carrying small bottles of Brandy and Gin.

One bar owner, however, warned that many bar tenders had become unemployed.

“The state of the economy is bad. We have had to send about seven workers on unpaid leave. I pity them but there is nothing I can do,” the bar owner said on condition of anonymity.

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