Uproar in coast over crackdown on mnazi wine traders

Residents said Mnazi is legal and no one should be harassed because of taking the brew since they are promoting the Coastal culture. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

An uproar has greeted the ongoing crackdown on palm wine traders in Kilifi following a directive by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua over two weeks ago.

On Wednesday, leaders and traders said the palm wine, locally known as Mnazi, was not classified as an illicit liquor and that the crackdown by law enforcers was illegal.

Led by Kilifi Assembly Speaker Teddy Mwambire, they said that palm wine was legalised by counties on the Coast, and no case of death was reported from consumption of Mnazi.

He said the wine is tapped naturally from the coconut tree and no chemical is added to it unlike second general spirits or other illicit drinks like Chang'aa.

“The brew has various cultural and social uses among the Mijikenda tribe, terming it illicit is an insult to the Mijikenda people, and police officers should stop frustrating and extorting our people,” said Mwambire.

He said the Kilifi County Assembly will not sit back and watch Mnazi sellers and users being harassed by law enforcement officers and called for talks to address the misconceptions.

“We have seen some people getting mad about the consumption of palm wine by our people in the Coast region but this is not an illicit brew but a cultural and social wine," said Mwambire.

He added: “I want to caution the national government and in particular Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua to go slow and learn more about Mnazi before including it among illicit brews."

The coconut tree is considered one of the main cash crops on the Coast and has been receiving government funding. Kilifi County has also incorporated the tree and all its products, including Mnazi as a cash crop.