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Something's brewing as prohibitions are lifted on sale and distribution of 'muratina'

Peter Kimani
 National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula (right) enjoys a sip of traditional brew with Lurambi Mp Bishop Titus Khamala and Maendeleo Democratic party leader Hamisi Omikandaduring the Batsotso cultural festival at Ikonyero Primary School. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Something’s brewing as prohibitions are lifted on sale and distribution of ‘muratina’

I was out and about this week, returning to the Mombasa Road mayhem that I have escaped for a while.

Besides the flatulent horns from politicos in wide SUVs— the horns were long declared illegal by the courts—there were other motorists who ran on road’s shoulders then forced their way back in. Consequently, no one moved.

But since I have very low expectations of fellow motorists, I paid them no heed, focusing instead on boda bodas that ride even more precariously.

I counted three boda bodas carrying a unique plant: sugar cane.

There is nothing unique about cane, come to think of it, but the timing seemed interesting: sugarcane is the base of a unique drink called muratina, the traditional honey-based brew that was outlawed by British colonials when they wanted to mobilise our ancestors into forced labour.

Subsequently, muratina brewing went underground and one needed a special permit to brew it occasionally, when cultural rituals and family gatherings permitted it. One might say drinking is part of our cultural life and Kenyans should be allowed a drink any time they feel like it.

Anyhow, muratina was in the news last week because the courts clarified that the brew is not categorised as illicit, so those who care for it, and there are many, should consume it without hiding.

One of my relations says he has been frequenting one such place where the brew has been on offer for a while, even though the enterprise was run as a non-profit, meaning the merchant only recovered his costs.

The merchant also observed strict times for its sale and consumption. Anyone lingering in his compound after 7pm would be kicked out.

And understandably so; you don’t want inebriated men hovering around your household, asking to be guided to the washroom, or staggering and crashing into tea things or a cooking meal in the kitchen.

I hear this merchant, who wasn’t interested in profits, has extended his opening hours to 10pm, and there are real possibilities he might extend this to overnight.

I think that’s the way to go and make ours a 24-hour economy. And the tax man will have to work harder to find formal outlets that can pay tax.

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