A craze for home brewing has swept across South Africa since the government banned the sale of alcohol.

South Africa, which has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption per capita in the world, imposed a lockdown on March 27 and banned alcohol in a bid to ease hospital workloads, help the public stick to social distancing rules and prevent a rise in domestic violence.

In the video below, President Ramaphosa announces the sale of alcohol during Level 3 lockdown:

South Africans have improvised, brewing their own beer and umqombothi, a traditional African beer made from sorghum, as well as distilling mampoer, a potent Afrikaner fruit-based liquor.

“The market has absolutely gone crazy,” says Frank van Wensveen, who owns a home beer brewing supply shop. “When the liquor ban was initially announced, people were coming to the shop in a panic and essentially buying everything in sight.”

Since the government reopened e-commerce earlier this month, online orders have ballooned, with sales up 15-fold from pre-pandemic levels, he says.

In the video below, the liquor industry welcomes lift of the ban in Level-3:

Google searches on homemade beer recipes have spiked in South Africa, according to Google trend data, and a run on pineapples for beer brewing forced supermarket giant Shoprite to limit their sale to five per customer. Predictably, illegal liquor sales and smuggling of the contraband across South Africa’s land borders has also been on the rise.

While the temporary prohibition has caused a rise in spawned a booming business in workarounds, it has come at the expense of traditional purveyors of booze.

Bars and liquor stores are suffering, as are the largely informal and sometimes improvised township taverns, scattered throughout South Africa.

“The people I am worried about are the shebeens, the Mama Ruby’s corner, the Uncle Jack’s liquor store,” said Collin Kambi, a resident east of Johannesburg, who misses his local dive. “They are going to get poorer and poorer.”

While some businesses are suffering, the ban on alcohol sales appears to have had the desired effect. Before lockdown, hospitals in South Africa took in around an estimated 17 000 alcohol-related trauma admissions per-week, compared to 10 300 admissions per-week since the lockdown began, according the Director for Alcohol, Tobacco and Drug Research at the South African Medical Research Council, Charles Parry.

Parry expects the number of patients to rise again once lockdown restrictions are eased from June 1 when alcohol sales will once again be permitted, although under tight restrictions and only for home consumption.

In the video below, Political Analyst Ongama Mtimka analyses Level -3 regulations: