Fears that the unbanning of alcohol may lead to increased road accidents and domestic violence cases

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The lifting of the alcohol ban this week has again put South Africa’s consumption patterns and the errant behaviour that goes with it, in the spotlight. The Association for Alcohol Responsibility and Education (AWARE) is urging those who consume alcohol to realise that alcohol abuse has grave consequences.

Now more than ever, alcohol abusers are being urged to change; drink in moderation, and be more responsible. The country’s daily coronavirus infection rate is declining and it has been a relief to hospitals and medical workers.

But many are worried that the easing of restrictions, in particular, the sale of alcohol may come with new pressure on trauma units. The Chief Executive Officer of AWARE Ingride Louw says binge drinking and its consequences could result in stricter lockdown regulations.

“We want to encourage the public to adopt a responsible lifestyle. In the current context of COVID-19, people need to practice social distancing. You need to wear a mask, observe the 10pm curfew. Especially with the lifting of the alcohol ban, we don’t want people to engage in binge drinking, drinking, and driving. We want to ask traders to trade responsibly. When you drink and drive, that can result in road fatalities. It can also lead to aggressive behavior.”

South Africans queue to purchase alcohol after the lifting of the ban : 

Gender-based violence

Since the lockdown was announced in March, there has been an increase in the reporting of gender-based violence. President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the GBV stats as another pandemic.

President Ramaphosa has also called on victims to report cases of GBV:

Executive Director of People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) Mary Makgaba, says alcohol abuse leads to aggressive behaviour.

“South Africa has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption and patterns of risky behaviour which perpetuate domestic and sexual violence. Our stance was that it should not be lifted; however, we support the president. Remember when someone is under the influence of liquor, there is a change in behaviour and alcohol-related arguments. Most of the perpetrators commit offences when they are under the influence of alcohol.”

Road accidents

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) has called for efforts to clamp down on drunk driving to be stepped up.

“Our concern is that, now that there is no ban on alcohol sale, we will start to see an increase in the number of accidents involving drunken driving. We already saw one accident in Benoni where five people were killed and alcohol is suspected to be a factor in that accident. We want law enforcement agencies throughout the country to step up their drunken driving operations. We know from research that many accidents happen at night. We want to see an increase in drunken driving operations especially over the weekend,” says RTMC spokesperson Simon Zwane.

 Tourism industry

The ban on alcohol has been hard on many in tourism, hospitality, and particularly the restaurant sector. Director of the Liquor Traders Association Sean Robinson has urged drinkers to consume alcohol more responsibly.

“It came as a huge relief that we are able to trade again. The lockdown, initially, 66 days then 34 days had a massive impact on all independent liquor stores. You can imagine being unable to trade. We still had fixed costs, salaries, rent to pay. It has been devastating to independent liquor stores. We are delighted with how the trade has gone over the last few days, it’s been incident-free. We encourage everyone to be extremely responsible with consumption all the time. It’s of great concern to us that there is a portion of the population that consumes irresponsibly.”

Liquor stores across the country are pleased with the increased number of sales this week. But if people do not observe regulations, the alcohol ban could be back again, especially if the country enters a second wave of the virus.