Being proudly Zimbabwean, there is nothing I enjoy more than a Zambezi Lager. So when I returned to Harare for a brief visit recently, Zambezi Lager was high on my priority list. Who would’ve thought that obtaining Zimbabwe’s national beer would involve such a fiasco!

Being proudly Zimbabwean, there is nothing I enjoy more than a Zambezi Lager. It was the first beer I ever drank and the first beer my father taught me to pour “properly” (you’d be amazed at how many people don’t know how to pour a beer!). I have had Zambezi Lagers at Kariba, at Victoria Falls, on the veranda and on the Zambezi River. It’s simply one of the best beers in the world and holds a great deal of nostalgia for me.

So when I returned to Harare for a brief visit recently, Zambezi Lager was high on my priority list.  You cannot find it anywhere else but in Zimbabwe (you may find it in Zambia and Botswana, but definitely not in South Africa – I have checked!) so this was my only chance to have one – every day if possible. Who would’ve thought that obtaining Zimbabwe’s national beer would involve such a fiasco!

The neighbours kindly offered to take me to a local shopping centre to get a SIM card for my phone. There was a bit of queue at EcoNet (a local service provider) so while I waited I spotted a bottle store next door.  “Ha!” I thought, “Let me go see if they have my beer”. They did! I was beyond excited and even more so when I saw they were ZWD17 (less than a Rand if the exchange rate is followed, but this only works in theory).  So I grab a few out of the fridge, all crispy cold – delicious! Then I saw the sign…  “All beer purchases must be accompanied by empties”. In other words, no empty bottle, no beer!

I am a firm believer in recycling, but this was a bit over the top. Where was I supposed to find an empty beer bottle if I had just arrived in the country? The chap at the till was very friendly (all Zimbos are) and most apologetic about this state of affairs. Apparently you can buy screw cap beers and cans with no empty bottle (or empty can) required, but the bottles that have a flip lid (needing a bottle opener) need an empty in return.  He had (for obvious reasons) sold out of the screw cap and cans. Seeing as I was stuck, I went back to EcoNet where the queue was gone – and just to add insult to injury, I couldn’t get a SIM card as there was no electricity. We returned home over all the potholes empty handed on all fronts.

I have since found out that one can buy a beer, drink it in the bottle store and then return that bottle to get another one. Yes! Only in Zimbabwe…

Today we set off for Sam Levy’s Village to sort out my SIM card (EcoNet has a fancy store here with generators, so electricity is not an issue). Having successfully sorted a SIM card and data for the duration of my stay, we went to the local Spar. Of course the first thing I did was go to the fridges to acquire Zambezi Lager. They only had quarts, but that’s my style so no problem. Uh, but there it was again! A sign saying no bottle – no beer! I nearly collapsed. In the Spar! You would think they would make a plan, but no, they are serious about this recycling thing.  Or is it because there’s a shortage of bottles? I will never know, but what I do know is I was once again thwarted. Thankfully the Spar had tonnes of Tanganda Tea. Not the same, but still so fabulously Zimbabwean, so I bought a mountain of boxes. If I can’t have Zimbabwean beer, I will at least have Zimbabwean tea!

No Zambezi Lager.

No Zambezi Lager.

I ask said neighbours if they have any empty beers. They only had full South African ones, which they kindly  let me have. However, I would have to drink them first. Now that wouldn’t have been a problem, except that the beers had the screw off lids. These Zimbabweans are no fools – they know a screw off lid from a flip off lid. I decline the beers.

I consider asking the other neighbours in the complex if they have any empty beer bottles. But then feel guilty for depriving them of their much-needed bottles, so decide against it. Still no Zambezi Lager.

Today we went to the Avondale Shopping Centre to meet up with friends for breakfast. Was a fantastic breakfast (more on that in another post) but felt that ordering a beer with breakfast may not go down well. Besides, we were going to Pick n’ Pay afterwards so I would get my lagers there. It’s South African after all, so they must have cans, right?

Wrong. They didn’t even have any Zambezi Lager. Nothing. Nada. Not even a single bottle let alone a quart. Someone should have a word with Pick n’ Pay in Harare. They shouldn’t only be representing South African beers (plenty of Black Label and Castle) but should have Zimbabwe beers as well. After all, they are in Zimbabwe!

No Zambezi Lager.

Still no Zambezi Lager. But I am confident that I will be able to get a six pack or a few quarts at  Duty Free. At least I could have one in Cape Town if need be.

After going through customs and immigration I headed straight to Duty Free. It was fairly empty, except for some bottles of Amarula, a few wines and, of course, boxes of Tanganda Tea. So I go to the counter and enquire about Zambezi Lager. “Of course!” says the guy at the till, “Let me go get you some from the fridges at the back”. Victory at last! Except he returns shaking his head… “We are sold out”. Well of course you are! There’s nowhere else you can buy this beer unless you arrive in the country with a six pack of empties! Seeing my desperation, he kindly offered to run down the road to the local bottle store to procure me a quart. As I was boarding in half an hour, this wasn’t going to work. So he suggested I go ask the bar as they sold Zambezi Lager. Excellent plan…

To my delight, the airport bar did have Zambezi Lagers. However, they couldn’t sell me a few to take home as they… wait for it… needed the bottles! I could’ve cried (I actually wanted to scream). But, I was welcome to enjoy one before my flight so they could have the bottle back. It was 11h00. Which made for a perfectly good time to have a beer.

That Zambezi Lager cost me R65, but it was the best damn beer I have ever had in my life…

Published March 2020 | Own cost (in so many ways)