Misheck Mwanza on Kachasu Distillaries, as an African heritage
By Misheck Mwanza, Zambian Economist
Kachasu distilling is one of the most prominent sciences most African societies have learnt and mastered very well. I am made to believe that this particular science was introduced by the Portuguese several centuries back. Away from Africa, I understand that kachasu is also found and consumed in Brazil, where it is called Kachasa (mark the spelling). As Brazil is a former colony of Portugal, one may not be wrong to suspect that the Portuguese introduced this alcoholic science in that part of the world while, subsequently, onto the continent of Africa, through their colonies of Angola, Cape Verde and Mozambique. Over time, the science reached other parts of the continent.
I understand that in Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda, kachasu is initially distilled by local people (villagers and township dwellers). Further, I hear that in Malawi and Uganda the local distillers sell the kachasu to modern distilleries where it is subjected to further distilling. It is then appropriately bottled and nicely labeled (with messages such as alcohol percentage, health issues, etc). I also understand that in Malawi this re-distilled kachasu is called Malawi Gin, while in Uganda it is called Waraggi (not that I know for sure). But, if this is true, it is worth emulating.
In Zambia, kachasu is a very common alcoholic beverage distilled and consumed in both rural and urban communities. The distillers sell the stuff as neat as it is distilled. There are no known mixers or any form of dilution. What I don’t know, though, is whether anybody has ever established its alcohol content. We just hear that its effect on health is devastating. But, even as revellers may be aware of such effects on their health, its consumption has continued to escalate to alarming levels. We have seen young men and women who have become dysfunctional zombies due to copious intakes of kachasu.
We have seen several attempts in the past and now to try and curtail the distilling and consumption of this alcohol. These attempts have not succeeded, and I don’t see them succeeding. This type of alcohol is distilled and consumed widely in villages and townships alike. No amount of policing will succeed, no amount of forced consumption (the Minister’s way) will stop it. The only way out is to try the Malawian and Ugandan ways. That way, it may even become a job creating venture for youths and income generating undertaking for the distillers (communities).
So, there is need to look at kachasu distilling as a possible window of unexplored income and job opportunities for youths. Chasing distillers and consumers around will not achieve any cost effective results.