I have always known that as South Africans, imbibing has become part and parcel of our social fabric. It is not uncommon to hear people advocate that our Heritage Day should be reduced to a braai ‘n beer day and – oh yes – gooi a brandy in there as well.
As a result, I was never shocked by the euphoria and jubilation on my social media timelines when the announcement about the resumption of the sale of alcohol was made on the 24th of May. Even the lighting of firecrackers that I saw circulating on social media was a mere source of amusement, rather than shock.
But the Monday of 1 June 2020 was shocking. A turning point for me. It revealed another side of this country that I never imagined could exist. Or perhaps, I just never wanted to entertain such an imagination.
Tens of thousands of people braved the Johannesburg winter cold and flocked to queue in front of liquor shops in time for the 9am opening. Social media was abuzz with videos of people in different corners of South Africa, singing in celebration of finally being reunited with the intoxication “beverage”, as Cobra of The River calls it.
News outlets were crossing live to different liquor shops and getting blow by blow reactions.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the country had just won a world cup of a major sporting code. At the same time, more people were admitted
into our hospitals for cases connected with alcohol.
While all of this was happening, I came across yet another “beverage” related video. But this one was different; it was that of the CIC of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Juju, condemning these celebrations. I thought to myself, now that is the kind of leadership we need. What a comeback from a man who, just a few days before that, had encouraged South Africans to let the “white economy” collapse. Such a divisive statement when we need inclusive growth the most. Oh well! Every dark cloud has a silver lining.
In a 2019 report, The World Health Organisation ranked our beloved country as the 6th drunkest nation in the world. Let me put it to you, so it is 1, 2,3,4,5,6, yes that is where we are. How I wish it was our national soccer team Bafana Bafana, which was ranked that high in world rankings.
Unfortunately, you would have to multiply 6 by 6, two times, minus one, to get to the 2019 Fifa ranking of our boys, which was 71. Now that sounds like complicated mathematics, does it not? I would be surprised if it does not, given that the Word Economic Forum ranked South Africa last for mathematics and science education quality, in its Global Information Technology Report of 2016.
Now, that it is even more shocking.
Make no mistake, I enjoy having a “beverage” myself, Scotch is my poison. Sure, we need to escape our painful realities sometimes, be blissful, unwind, and cut-loose. In fact, if it was not for the vino, maybe I would have long succumbed to the cruelties of this world.
Most of my friends and family enjoy it too. We enjoy a scotch, or gin or champompo together on most of our meetings, whilst debating politics, economics, or enjoying a game of soccer.
I am not saying that we should not drink, nor am I saying we should not be happy when we finally get some after two consecutive months of forced abstinence, but, Ayi khona! Siyayibaxa (We are overdoing it)!
For the first time this past Monday, I was ashamed to be associated with alcohol. I sat down and seriously pondered the goodness and the dividends of alcohol.
We can shy away from talking about and admitting it, but alcohol does destroy your liver, families, futures, and careers, and it does result in some of the road accidents that we see on our roads day in and day out. Research shows that about 6% of all deaths within South Africa are solely alcohol-related. Beyond that, it also has the potential of contributing to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, as President Yoweri Museveni, of Uganda, once warned us.
We must turn things around, for if we continue on this path, we are heading for (another) disaster.
It cannot be that we are not holding the government into account for not having schools ready to reopen.
It cannot be that we are not ready to go to places of worship and resort to worshipping alcohol. The holy book says “All things are allowed but not all things are beneficial”,
These are tough times; we must cut down on non-essentials. Can we consume alcohol sparingly? I am well aware that we have an even exacerbated plethora of challenging circumstances, but alcohol cannot be the panacea. Even the producers have told us, time and time again, “Enjoy responsibly” people.
South Africa, please, slow down, yehlisa, Kancane! wag ‘n bietjie, hold-up – it is too much.
- Tusani Mnyandu is a student at Rhodes University completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism and Media Studies. He is in Gauteng during the lockdown.