THE old tradition of social interaction at public recreation centres like beer halls in suburbs, a strong urban tradition since the colonial era has been eroded by the technological advancement of the new millennium.
Report by Jairos Saunyama Own Correspondent
In Harare, high-density suburbs such as Mbare, Highfield and Mufakose, as well as the satellite town of Chitungwiza, have succumbed to the new cultural imperialism.
Bulawayo has, however, retained much of its tradition, with folks still meeting in beer halls. Cultural groups still perform at Makokoba or Mzilikazi beer halls.
Kwela music groups are also still seen performing in garden beer Halls including Madlodlo Beer Garden in Makokoba, Mandebele Beer hall in Njube and Makalanga Beer Hall in Mabuthweni.
Shebeens are still dotted across the second largest city, where beer lovers can be seen sitting on crates outside or inside one’s house.
In Harare, however, shebeens, the style of the 1980s have literally disappeared from the scene as people, especially the young, now prefer upmarket clubs.
A resident of Nketa 9 in Bulawayo, Khulani Nkala, is optimistic that shebeens in the City of Kings will never slip into oblivion.
“Shebeens are still very popular and charge the same price of beer as the legal outlets.
“I think it’s mainly because of the South African influence that is strong here,” he said.
In neighbouring South Africa, the government has legalised shebeens, which are popular beer outlets, especially in low-income neighbourhoods.
Operating a shebeen in Zimbabwe is illegal and these are mostly undercover operations where the police are often bribed by “sheb” queens to avoid harassment and arrest.
In the past, burial societies, traditional cultural groups and music bands used to meet in council beer halls then run by Rufaro Marketing, every Saturday, for meetings and performances.
TN Holdings has since taken over all the Rufaro Marketing bars and is transforming them into business premises, churches and home industries.
The urban African culture has also fallen victim to the establishment of open-air joints like Pamuzinda Highway, Mega 1 and kwaMereki in Harare.
Tinarwo Rukavo (69) of Highfield, still revels in the nostalga of what used to happen in council bars.
“We are no longer meeting in the beer halls. It’s a pity they have been turned into something else. Each time I pass through some of the buildings, I feel nedleed,” he said.
Theresa Marimba from Glen View said such places were important for social development because of the kind of interaction that happened in the bars.
“We used to call them kumachembere, because we would have a good time sharing ideas,” she said.
“We really had a good time. We would go to beer halls for social reasons like burial society meetings. After the meetings we would drink Chibuku and dance to music.
“Every thing was cheap and I feel pity for the youths of
today who have moved on to newer and vibrant phenomena of sports bars and night clubs.”
Sociologist Darlington Nyabiko said the deterioration of the concept can be attributed to a number of factors.
“Culture is versatile and all-embracing. It also includes communal informal education and technology.
“Culture therefore structures and determines the way social institutions shape life as well as how cultivated and imposed
behaviour is communally transmitted from one generation to another,” he added.