The Sunday Mail
Thinking of ending your weekend with a whiskey, brandy, rum or vodka? Think twice!
Illegal distribution of liquor in Zimbabwe has seen a lot of knock-off brands enter the market. Most bottles are priced much lower than original products, making them a hit with drinkers.
Last week, The Namibian newspaper reported that customs officials at Walvis Bay had seized and destroyed a haul of 95 000 bottles of counterfeit Johnnie Walker Red and Black Label whiskey, and Smirnoff vodka.
The contraband was Harare-bound.
The contraband, worth about N$20 million (nearly US$1,5 million), was allegedly shipped from the United States via Dubai to the port of Walvis Bay.
According to the report, consumables such as alcohol, cigarettes, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals are being smuggled to Africa, impacting negatively on both the economy and health of citizens.
The Sunday Mail spoke to illegal alcohol distributors and bar and nightclub operators who expressed divergent views on the imitations.
Devine Assignments director Biggie Chinoperekwei, who runs several nightclubs, said, “They are taking business away from genuine tax-paying businesspeople.
“The health of our citizens is also at risk. We wonder where some cancers come from, yet there are products like these that do not undergo proper standards monitoring.
“We urge drinkers to shun the illegal dealers and buy from certified distributors because we only buy from genuine distributors of these products. That is the best way to protect one’s health and to put these fraudsters out of business.”
An illegal alcohol dealer in Harare’s CBD, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was relatively easy to distinguish between genuine and fake stuff.
“On closer examination of the bottles, you will notice things like mis-spellings and logo differences. The labels do not look quite right. The colour of the liquid sometimes is not quite the same as others.
“Others also have froth, and cap seals are tempered with,” he said, adding, “As dealers, we have to protect ourselves from copies because once one client exposes you as a distributor of fake stuff, you will be put out of business because no one will buy from you.”
He went on: “The fake products are there, there is nothing we can do about it because they are cheaper and most people that buy them know this.”
A hospitality industry executive said he would do anything to get his hands on imitations, claiming they were cheaper and of the same quality is genuine products.
“The formula for making these things is out there. Those products you say are fake are actually the same as the product you say is genuine. The difference is the price only and, in some cases, spellings. They taste the same. I want the fake product; it is cheaper, and that means we make more money,” he asserted.
While some drinkers we interviewed were worried about the dangers of these products to their health, some fell back on the old “a beer is a beer” mantra.
According to whiskeyreviewer.com, fake whiskey is on the rise all over the world, with counterfeiters becoming more sophisticated by the day.
However, just like pirated music or movies – the popularity of these counterfeits indicates the strength of this industry.
For genuine businesspeople, it shows there is money to be made if they can find ways of reducing production and distribution costs.