Latest News and Analysis
JHB Residents React to Alcohol SuspensionBy Uyapo Majahana - @uyapomajax (Twitter)
22 July 2020
The suspension of alcohol by President Cyril Ramaphosa has received a mixed reaction from people in and around Johannesburg.
In an attempt to avoid burdening clinics and hospitals with alcohol-related injuries, the President announced the suspension of the sale, dispensing and distribution of alcohol with immediate effect, as from the 15th of July 2020. In a vox pop conducted by Hillbrow Radio News, most people said the government should have given people a warning before limiting their social life.
"The president should have told people beforehand that from this date to this date, alcohol will be banned so that they can prepare and stock if they want to. He should understand that it is the people that voted him into office so he should consult the same people in matters such as these," said Samuel from Berea. Some said the suspension of alcohol is a bad move since it affects their income and livelihood.
"I understand what the government is trying to do, but what about the rest of us whose families depend on alcohol, what should we do? For example I work at a night club so this means I just have to brace myself for trying times. There's talk of grant money, but that money only appears WhatsApp, it never reaches the pocket. The President should be considerate," said Thulani from Hillbrow. During the second Presidential Virtual Imbizo on Coronavirus, President Ramaphosa said the government was well aware of the current job losses and that it was currently working to address that.
He admitted that although the government was working on a massive job creation process through its infrastructure projects as well as more direct public employment, job losses are also going to be massive so not everyone is going to be covered. He however stressed that efforts are going to be made to ensure that those who have lost jobs get assistance from the interventions that are going to be put in place.
Other residents voiced that the suspension of alcohol would not do much difference in the fight against COVID-19 if other measures are not addressed. "I feel sad about the banning of alcohol because I do not see the reason behind it. Check, right now it has been banned but, the figures are still increasing. What is the point banning alcohol when taxis are still loading at full capacity?” one respondent said.
In his statement, the President said that taxis undertaking local trips will now be permitted to increase their capacity to 100%, while long distance taxis will not be allowed to exceed 70% occupancy, on condition that new risk mitigation protocols related to masks, vehicle sanitising and open windows are followed. On the other hand, some residents said they were in full support of the government's decision to suspend alcohol sale and distribution because it was for the greater good of the society.
"I am happy about the decision that the government has taken regarding the banning of alcohol. This is because there are many dangers that are happening because of alcohol. People are being stabbed and gunned down, and gender based violence cases are increasing. “So I commend the government for taking such a bold and unpopular decision, it shows he has the people at heart even if results in a dent in his popularity. I also drink, but as of late I have taken a break because I realize that the situation is bad," said James Mazibuko from Johannesburg CBD.
"As painful as the banning of alcohol may be, the bottom line is that we will not die if we do not drink alcohol. I am 100% behind the President on this one. I think the argument that the pandemic we are currently facing may easily spread when bars are open makes so much sense that we cannot ignore it. After all there is no rush, alcohol will always be there," reinforced a respondent who preferred anonymity. "I am happy about the banning of alcohol. People were safe during the first ban. But now people are getting involved in dangerous activities, sometimes leading to death," said Marcus from Berea.
The alcohol suspension came on the backdrop of an increase in COVID-19 confirmed cases. The president said Gauteng was fast approaching 100,000 confirmed cases while the Eastern Cape had passed 50,000 cases, and the Western Cape approaching 80,000 cases. Alcohol abuse is a topical issue in South Africa as health experts have warned that alcohol abuse will continue to have a serious impact on the country’s healthcare sector, even outside of a peak in coronavirus cases. Presenting in parliament on Wednesday (15 July), the SAMRC’s Professor Charles Parry showed how that around 31% of South Africans drink alcohol.
It is estimated that 80% of male youth deaths in the country are alcohol-related while 6-8% of all deaths in the country can be attributable to alcohol – the equivalent of 171 deaths a day or 62,300 deaths a year.