Soldiers in Swaziland (eSwatini) have been illegally selling beer to the public from an army facility, while sales of alcohol remains banned during the coronavirus crisis.
They set up a make-shift store at Mgenule, near the Matsapha International Airport.
The Times of eSwatini in an investigation found dozens of uniformed soldiers were involved.
It reported, ‘A majority of them were behind the offices and they were busy counting and repacking crates with empty bottles of beer. While the majority of the military men were counting and repacking the empty cases of beer, some were monitoring closely.’ It added pieces of a tent had been hung over a perimeter fence to prevent people outside seeing what was going on.
The Times reported that alcoholic beverages had always been available at Mgenule during the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown which started in March 2020.
It added, ‘However, the allegations are to the effect that the liquor which was being sold did not belong to the army, but one of the senior officers based at the army wing in Matsapha Airport.’
It said the liquor was allegedly smuggled from neighbouring South Africa, through an informal border crossing.
In a separate report, the Times said an army vehicle was alleged used to transport the stock to this facility.
It added there had been reports that a senior soldier was among four people detained last month for smuggling alcohol into Swaziland using an army vehicle. ‘We are told that a group of Military Police helped apprehend some of their own, but it is disappointing to learn that the culprits were released without the sort of punishment that warrants the crime,’ the report said.
The Umbutfo eSwatini Defence Force (UEDF), the formal name for the Swazi Army, is investigating.
The ban on alcohol in Swaziland has been controversial and many jobs and businesses have been put a risk as a result.
The alcohol industry is thought to inject more than E400 million (US$24 million) into the economy annually and provide more than 14,000 jobs.
Separately, on Thursday (8 October 2020) Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini told a meeting of media editors that the alcohol ban had been extended indefinitely. He said the Government would continue to review reports from health experts before a decision on removing the ban was made.
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