The flaws of the unbanning of alcohol


Alcohol runs freely once more as government declares an end to the hard ban on liquor.


By Bathandwa Magqaza

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 6 of VARSITY News.


On Sunday night, 24th May 2020, fellow South Africans listened to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s nation address with varying expectations. The President announced that a limited sale of alcohol would be allowed under Level 3, on conditional terms such as being restricted to home consumption as well as other control measures.


The government’s decision assumedly comes after due consideration of the socio-economic matters of South Africa, the consequences that follow the implementation of alcohol sales and influence from the liquor industry that has been lobbying for the easing of sale regulations since the beginning of lockdown.


The ban on cigarettes alone cost the national purse R664-million in lost taxes over 29 days in April. Tax collection boss Edward Kieswetter told lawmakers, “the Covid-19 hard lockdown would cost South Africa R285-billion”. Moreover, estimates from economists, the National Treasury to the South African Reserve Bank and the International Monetary Fund, show between one to three million job losses and the contraction of an already ailing economy of between 5.8% to 6.1% due to the Covid-19 hard lockdown.


According to Statistics South Africa, services for drug and alcohol-dependence are inadequate. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranked South Africa as the fifth highest in the world when it comes to alcohol consumption. Further research proved that, either the perpetrator or the victim was reported to have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 72% of sexual violence incidents taking place outdoors and 23.3% of incidents taking place at home. Therefore, it is indisputable that binge-drinking is the strongest proximate risk factor for violence against women and children.


If the State is indeed serious about mitigating, or perhaps annihilating Gender-Based-Violence (GBV), the limiting of access to alcohol seems to present a viable solution. Research by the WHO has shown that South Africa is a nation with a significant population of heavy drinkers and substance abusers and so for many citizens, the banning of alcohol is a welcome respite for a society often plagued by alcohol-related deaths and crimes. However, many South Africans have also acknowledged the fact that, what the president announced in his address on Sunday was a significant step in reopening economic activity. As queues formed outside the liquor stores on the 1st of June, South Africans can only wait and anticipate the potential consequences of bringing back booze in the time of a national disaster.


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