Faced With A Bleak Future Post Lockdown, Zim Men And Boys Resort To Twabam, A Highly Intoxicating Brandy

IT’S 8:00 in the morning and due to the prevailing Lockdown, there is not much activity at Kuwadzana 6 Shopping Centre, known as pa Holland. Only a few young men and boys are seen milling around the shopping Centre near the Street Café Wholesale that sales an assortment of alcoholic beverages.

By Michael Gwarisa

Amongst Street Café’s beverages collection is a locally manufactured brandy, “Saints Brandy” which has a 40% alcohol content and is in the class of illicit brews such as Tambilani, Lawidzani and Msombodiya which dominated the market a few years ago. The brandy which goes for only 0.50 Cents, is either taken raw or diluted with water to form a mixture which has gained the moniker “Twabam” amongst young people and imbibers.

Because bars and nightclubs are closed due to the lockdown, most beer lovers are forced to make do with what is at their disposal just to get intoxicated even it means taking harmful and highly intoxicating illicit brews. Faced with the demand to provide for their families and personal needs under very harsh economic circumstances that have been worsened by the Lockdown, most men and boys now find themselves between a hard surface and rock, and to escape the pressures, some have resorted to the now popular brew and other hard drugs.

For Lawrence Muronda (32) who lives in Kuwadzana 6 with his wife and two children and does menial plumbing piece jobs for a living, he says surviving the prevailing lockdown is an extreme sport owing to its timing,  and to escape from its harsh realities, he has started taking the cheap Twabam brandy as he can’t cope with his wife’s constant nagging at home.

I used to make some decent money before the lockdown from my plumbing jobs. Right now i don’t know what the future holds. I used to get contracts in the northern suburbs but it seems the COVID-19 has just killed business and everyone is now minding their own business and concerned about their health. The future is bleak i tell you.

“My  wife is failing to understand that money is very hard to come by these days. She is always nagging and asking for things i cant afford at the moment. To escape from the nagging, i come to these shops, buy my Twabam beer . For the whole day and for only 0.50 cents i get drunk, i buy another one in the evening so that when i get home, i sleep like a baby and i don’t hear the nagging,” said Lawrence.

Lawrence story is reflective of what most men both young and old have been going through over the past 10 months since the time government announced a national lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. With an unemployment rate hovering above 90%, most young men have found solace in the informal sector and the lockdown has dealt a major blow to their prospects.  According to a survey conducted by HealthTimes during the prevailing lockdown, a number of young people and men are now regular drinkers of the Twabam brew especially Highfields, Mufakose, Budiriro, Glneview, Crowbrough North, Mbare and Kambuzuma.

The survey also showed Young men and boys have resorted to a Crystal Meth like drug called Mutoriro which is made from powder that is extracted from used florescent bulbs, Television bulbs and energy server bulbs. According to experts, men and boys usually adopt negative coping mechanisms such as substance abuse during emergency times largely due to societal pressures which demand them to be bread winners and providers.

In an interview with HealthTimes, Padare/Enkundleni/Men’s Forum on Gender Programs Officer, Mr Jonathan Memory Chindevera said the lockdown had taken away men’s ability to be providers and bread winners and they were now seeking refuge in substance and alcohol abuse.

“In terms of what is actually fueling these issues that includes alcohol abuse, Gender Based Violence (GBV) and men committing suicide under emergencies and or under the lockdown is that number one, we need to understand that there are social norms that also puts men at the periphery of development. Men are expected by societies and communities to be bread winners hence the lockdown locked these men out of employment and as perceived bread winners, they then fail to provide that bread and by so doing, it then mounts pressure on men to then say if am not providing, am I still a man?

“Hence this has led to men resorting to either alcohol abuse or resorting to GBV or just to be indifferent. So, these are pressures that the lockdown have put on men because the lockdown has closed revenue streams. Most of our men are not formally employed in Zimbabwe and the informal sector employs more people than the formal sector so you find when the lockdown happened, the economic avenues were closed and this increased the vulnerabilities of men to provide for their families as they are expected to be “Bread winners,” said Mr Chindevera.

He added that owing to societal gender norms which have confined women to domestic work, most men are finding it difficult to cope with the lockdown which at times may require them to assist their spouses with domestic and unpaid care work. According to Mr Chindevera, men end up rebelling through substance and alcohol abuse just to rebel against being turned into to domestic men.

“As Padare/Enkundleni/Men’s Forum on Gender, what we are doing is we are also offering psychosocial support where we have online counselors that are ready to talk. Men at times they resort to violent behavior because they don’t have anyone to talk to so then as Padare, we then create that platform where men can talk to our counselors and other men so that at the end of the day, they use nonviolent ways of resolving conflict.

“We are also encouraging men to take up care work at home. You know just watering the garden or sweeping does not make you less a man. This can reduce tension and increase productivity in the family. These are basically the issues that we are dealing with. When we work with men, we are not looking at men as perpetrators but as people who are able to love, people who are able to contribute positively towards the welfare of their families.”

According to top Zimbabwean Psychologist, Dr Kudakwashe Muchena, research has shown that men and boys usually resort to drugs and alcohol abuse owing to their poor health seeking behavior and drugs come through as a numbing mechanism which makes them escape from reality.

“The pandemic itself has forced most countries to go into lockdown Zimbabwe included and lockdowns come with various challenges which have something to with mental health. Lockdown comes with isolation, loneliness, depression, stress, anxiety amongst a host of other mental health issues.   A lot of men are faced with those challenges that come with lockdowns and there are very high chances that because of their poor health seeking behaviors, they will not want to seek help from anywhere else that’s is why they end up indulging in these numbing drugs where they end using drugs and substances,” said Dr Muchena.

He added that culture has always portrayed men as the stronger gender and they should not cry so to avoid crying, men are resorting to negative coping mechanisms such as substance and alcohol abuse.

“It is quite a tricky situation that we are in, we need to promote a friendly health system that is friendly to men and boys so that they can be a part of that even if we are having this lockdown we also need to engage men in terms of making them understand the importance of mental health and the harmful effects of drugs. Once we are able to do that, we are then able to reduce the number of men and boys who engaging in these drugs.”

According to a research on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Among Young People in Zimbabwe: A Crisis of Morality or Public Health Problem, drug and substance abuse continues to be on the rise in Zimbabwe and It is more prevalent in urban areas and there is  huge evidence of abuse among young people. The key findings indicate that prevalence of drug abuse is at 57% among young people, the most commonly abused drugs and substances are marijuana and alcohol.






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