Wild animals slow fight against traditional brews in Taita Taveta

The government has intensified the fight against illicit brews and drugs across the country. [Jane Mugambi, Standard]

An administrator survived death by a whisker after she encountered a python during a crackdown on illicit brews.

Sagasa Sub-Location Assistant Chief Vigilance Kiongo said she was leading raids on traditional brew dens at night when she encountered the reptile.

“I froze when I encountered the python and screamed for help and the reptile disappeared into the nearby bush.  It has become difficult to conduct security operations at night due to marauding wild animals and reptiles like pythons among others,” said Kiongo yesterday.

According to her, most brewers prefer to operate under the cover of darkness to avoid arrest.

The assistant chief counts herself lucky to be alive after the incident. Kiongo has petitioned the Kenya Wildlife Service to relocate the reptiles posing a security threat to human beings and livestock in the area.

“Residents are living in fear following the invasion of the python that slithers from the hills in search of food. It has imposed a dawn-to-dusk curfew in some areas,” said Kiongo.

The chief vowed to intensify the war against drugs and illicit brews despite the challenges.

Taita Sub-County Police Commander Onesmus Kombe said the war had gone a notch higher.

Speaking during the operation, the police commander said they have so far arrested dozens of brewers and impounded brews.

Kombe said several suspects have already been taken to court. “We are not relenting in the war against cheap brews and drugs.”

“We have abandoned our offices to conduct day and night raids to ensure that we eliminate the vice.”

Apart from Mbangara, other brews sold in the region include chang’aa, matingas, nzoke and mnazi. Mbangara is popular among the Taita while matingas, chang’aa and nzoke are consumed by the Taveta.

Some of the illicit brews are laced with chemicals to accelerate the fermentation process and increase their potency. They include chloroquine, bicarbonate powder, and formalin, used in the preservation of dead bodies in mortuaries.

Others use non-conventional means to increase the drink’s potency and attract clients. In a shocking incident, police recently recovered a pair of a woman’s underwear from a can of illicit brew seized from a local brewer. It is believed that such additions have magical powers to lure more customers.

Other items used as charms include sanitary pads and bras that are also put in the brews, which consumers drink oblivious of the safety of the drinks.