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[VIDEOS] Why Dead Lizards, Used Condoms, Panties Are Used To 'Cook' Chang'aa

Ron KE

Aug. 01, 2020

Residents of Nairobi who love local booze will have to think twice before straying into those dingy drinking dens in estates.You have probably been quaffing a cocktail of dead lizards, panties, and used condoms for many months in those dens without your knowledge.
The sickening revelation, one that can push you to puke, came to light last week in Nairobi’s Kayole area.
The strange paraphernalia were discovered following a sting operation led by Embakasi Central MP Benjamin Gathiru popularly known as Major Donk - following a tip-off by area residents.
More than 5,000 litres of illicit brew was destroyed during the operation. But no arrests have been made after the owners fled from the ‘breweries’.
“We discovered used condoms, panties, dead lizards and used diapers inside a drum of chang’aa. We understand these are used as charms intended to lure customers,” said Mary Wambu, one of the residents.
Our inside sources have since learnt that brewers in the estates have resorted to juju to woo customers. The panties, most of which are stolen form clothelines or belong to the brewers, are often prescribed by city witchdoctors to ‘spice up’ the lethal alcohol.
Residents, mostly wives, now want police to conduct extensive patrols in the area to save their homes. They claim their men have become hooked to the drink and have lost their senses.
But even as the area MP conducted the successful search, other brewers are said to have resorted to chest-thumping, claiming they are untouchable.
The hunt for drug and illicit alcohol suppliers is now a priority for the police as government launched a crackdown on Friday. This will be the second wave of crackdowns by the State, with the first targeting consumers of illegal substances rather than their suppliers.
This renewed war on drugs and illicit brews will take place in Mt Kenya regions of Murang’a and Kiambu counties, with police promising a tough approach and seeking to go after those aiding and abetting the trade as well.
In a press statement to newsrooms, the government confirmed that it was all systems go for the strict hunt that is intended to put an end to supply and distribution of illicit products by arresting specifically dealers and brewers.
“Through thorough investigations, we have been able to find out the people involved with the bhang that is consumed in Murang’a and Thika. We shall arrest and prosecute those who are culpable,” said Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i during a meeting at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development in Ngara.According to Matiang’i, the nabbing of dealers and suppliers will stop the trend from reoccurring.
“To rid the counties of Murang’a and Kiambu, which have been badly affected by illicit brew and drug menace, the second wave will be tougher than the first wave of crackdowns," Matiang'i said.
Kenya's First Legal Chang'aa Distillery
A Google search of the word chang’aa will quickly produce some of the following words on linked websites; ‘kill me quick’, ‘poison brew’, or ‘African moonshine’.
The accompanying pictures will consist of dirty jerry cans, rubber pipes and barrels of the stuff being brewed in less than optimum conditions.
You will be hard-pressed to miss the classic face of the loyal chang’aa customer — unkempt hair, dry swollen lips and glazed bloodshot eyes staring back at you, and that is if they were awake when the picture was taken.
Although the government legalised chang’aa brewing in 2010 in a bid to regulate and prevent injuries and deaths, these images and words are usually what come to mind when the words chang’aa and brewing are uttered in the same breath.
Chang’aa has a bad rap, and for good reason — cases of the brew being laced with methanol and even jet fuel are numerous, and the chances of it being brewed in unhygienic conditions are high — reports of dead rats and women’s underwear being found at the bottom of the barrels abound.
TEDIOUS PROCESS
This year alone, more than 90 people have died after consuming illegally brewed liquor, a category in which chang’aa squarely falls.
But, despite its critics and poor public image, the brew, if prepared legally, can be a source of livelihood for those willing to go down the oft-disparaged path of distilling it.
For Betty Wanjiru, who started by illegally brewing chang’aa in 1997, it has been a long and difficult journey. “It was a tedious process when I first began to make chang’aa, quenching customers’ alcohol thirst with a drink whose safety I wasn’t even sure of while still sharing my profits with hungry police,” she recalls.
Wanjiru, who was born and bred in Maji Mazuri, Koibatek, says this was the only source of livelihood for her cash-strapped family. “I grew up in a very poor family.
“My father was polygamous and taking care of all of us was quite difficult, so our mother decided to brew chang’aa to take care of us.”
FAMILY INCOME
In 1990, the year Wanjiru completed high school, her mother stopped brewing the then illegal alcoholic drink to supplement the family income, Wanjiru started doing casual jobs.
But that did not go well because the wages were low, and so in 1997 she followed her mother’s footsteps into the brewing business. To find stronger footing, she left her rural Maji Mazuri home and settled in Nakuru.
At about the same time, chang’aa was in the news for all the wrong reasons; it had caused havoc in various parts of the country, killing or blinding scores.
Police and provincial administrators took advantage of the situation and started extorting bribes from her and other traders, which resulted in loss of revenue.
However, the worst was yet to come, as in 2012 she was arrested for running an unlicensed business during a raid led by the then Nakuru District Commissioner Kang’ethe Thuku. As a result, she says she lost brewed products worth Sh900,000 and raw materials worth Sh400,000.
NEW LEGAL FRAMEWORK
“That was too much for me to bear, and that’s when I started the tedious journey to license my business,” she says. She approached the District Alcoholic Drinks Committee but was told to get “a better job”.
She did not listen to them, and today Wanjiru is the first entrepreneur to be licensed by the National Authority for Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) to brew and package the controversial drink under its new legal framework.
The BetPet director, who proudly displays the Nacada licence signed by acting CEO Enock Onchwari, now manages an investment worth Sh3 million.
We found her at Mwariki Estate on the outskirts of Nakuru town, where she proudly showed us around her distillery. Her Cool One chang’aa is currently packed in 250ml and 205ml packs — both glass and plastic — but the director says she plans to introduce a 750ml pack.
According to Article 57 of the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, 2010, all alcohol manufacturers should obtain a Certificate of Analysis after their products have been approved.
FACILITY'S CAPACITY
That is achieved by sending sample drinks for testing, which Nacada chair John Mututho says aims to achieve safety and compliance with the authority’s directives.
“Every manufacturer must have a Certificate of Analysis from Nacada, which approves all alcohol components. We’re yet are to issue those certificates because we are still testing samples that were sent to us,” said Mututho.
According to the KRA certification in her possession, Wanjiru is authorised to produce 12,000 litres of chang’aa annually due to her facility’s capacity and the terms of the licence she applied for, but she says that the demand is rising, so she plans to review her licence with KRA and expand her production capacity.
Wanjiru said her samples were tested and approved by the relevant government agencies, but adds that she is still waiting for the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) to issue her with a Certificate of Analysis for her product.
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