Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Drinking and driving in Sub-Saharan Africa

Drinking and driving is part of the culture for many people (nearly always men) in the parts of Sub-Saharan Africa that I know best. Whilst living in Botswana my wife and I used to frequent Area L. Area L basically consists of a large car park surrounded on three sides by bars and butcheries. Every night of the week trade is brisk and at weekends the area is packed. Groups of people arrive by car, quite often 4x4's, buy their beer and braai (BBQ) their meat. There is a great atmosphere and it is a scene which can be found in its different guises all over the region. People will eventually move on from the area to other bars in the city - and virtually everyone will travel by car. The practice of taking one's car when going out drinking and then of driving from one bar to another is a cultural norm that few people challenge.

Furthermore, it is common, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, to see guys driving around town drinking a beer. Some of these guys will have driven into town from villages over 100km's away. They will have been drinking on route and they will be drinking on their journey home. The police, if truth be told, do little to respond to this situation. They will turn a blind eye because they do the same thing themselves when they are off duty, they know the guys driving around under the influence of alcohol (or they have mutual friends/aquantances) or they are bribed for a few Pula.

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