We can’t ban alcohol in South Africa – but the laws need to change: Cele

Police minister General Bheki Cele has once again taken a strong stance on alcohol abuse in South Africa and its role in the country’s high crime rate, saying the country needs laws to better regulate its usage.

Presenting the country’s Q2 2020 crime statistics on Friday (13 November), Cele said that the consumption and abuse of alcohol is a causative factor in hundreds of murder cases recorded over the three month period between 1 July and 31 September 2020.

“I remain critical and vocal about the negative effect alcohol has on our communities. This is despite my views being unpopular in some quarters of society,” he said.

“But these crime statistics that we are releasing today continue to vindicate our actions as the SAPS to clamp down on illegal alcohol trading. The figures show that the consumption and abuse of alcohol is a causative factor in hundreds of murder cases recorded in the second quarter.”

The SAPS’ crime data shows that over a thousand incidences of murder, attempted murder, rape and assault took place at in or outside liquor outlets such as bars, taverns, shebeens and nightclubs.

Cele said that liquor was also involved in 829 assault cases related to and 747 rape cases. 179 attempts of murder were alcohol-induced.

“These figures make it impossible to deny the true effects of alcohol abuse,” Cele said.

Relaxed restrictions 

Sale of alcohol has remained heavily restricted since the start of South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown, including two bans, as mitigating the harmful impact of liquor abuse was seen as necessary in freeing up needed hospital beds and reducing social events.

Since the start of alert level one on 21 September 2020, licensed outlets have only been allowed to sell alcohol for home consumption on weekdays from 09h00 to 17h00.

However, the government further relaxed restrictions this week – effectively allowing for normal alcohol sales with in curfew hours.

The amended regulations effectively mean that liquor trading returns to pre-lockdown hours, with bottle stores and other retailers now able sell liquor for off-site consumption over the weekend and during all licensed trading hours.

Any person who does not follow these regulations is liable to be fined or faces imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.

Cele said that the looser restrictions aren’t adding anything that wasn’t there before, in terms of access to alcohol – and added that South Africa’s problems with alcohol and crime existed long before lockdown.

He said that the country needed to find a way to better-handle its alcohol usage.

“We believe that better usage of alcohol will result in a safer South Africa – especially in terms of murder and gender based violence. I want (critics) to know, that while alcohol isn’t the only factor, it is one of the biggest involved with these negative things.

“We can’t ban alcohol – but there needs to be better usage of it. You can’t have a shebeen that closes at 04h00 in the morning. We need laws to help us with this one,” he said.


Read: Dlamini-Zuma details South Africa’s updated level 1 lockdown rules

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We can’t ban alcohol in South Africa – but the laws need to change: Cele