Time to prohibit prohibition

Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel











By John Fraser

Unless there is an outbreak of common sense, South Africa will have an indefinite ban on alcohol sales.


Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel announced this weekend that, from Friday, the country will move from the current Level 5 lockdown to Level 4.

As they stand, the new rules will prohibit the sale of alcohol, in stores or via e-commerce.

Now I can understand countries like Saudi Arabia banning alcohol, because it is a Moslem state, and some interpretations of the Koran prohibit booze.

However, South African is not a Moslem state, no legislation has been approved by Parliament to ban booze, and nor should it be.

There are, of course, hazards in allowing people to drink alcohol. For some it can lead to violence. There are also health concerns.

And yet, tobacco is being unbanned from Friday.

Now, I do not pretend to be a health expert, but I am pretty sure that – for most people – tobacco is a more dangerous drug than alcohol.

You have to weight up arguments and then to come to a logical conclusion.

However, if seems that there are powerful voices within the Cabinet who are putting their own prejudice against alcohol consumption above their duty to be objective public servants.

Shame on them.

There is no certainty about how many weeks or months it will be before the country can be promoted to Level 3, when it is likely that we will again be able to buy booze.

In the meantime, millions of South Africans – who are already enduring the lockdown, in fear of their jobs, scared about a deadly pandemic – are being deprived of the comfort and pleasure which a few glasses or wine or beer, whisky or cider would bring.

This is an intrusion into our lives and lifestyles, which is based on very disputable logic.

My heart goes out to those in the booze business, in the vineyards and to those retailers who are deprived of part or all of their livelihood.

A civilised pleasure has been banned in South Africa.

I don’t blame the virus; I blame the Cabinet.

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