South African government laments alcohol-related deaths

South African government officials have lamented the rise in alcohol-related road incidents following the lifting of a controversial ban on wine, beer and spirits sales.

Spokesperson Phumla Williams said the government’s efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 is being “dampened by reports of alcohol abuse, recklessness and terrible vehicle crashes and fatalities on our roads.”

The announcement came after a spate of alcohol-related road accidents were recorded over the weekend. Three officers from the Tshwane metro police department (TMPD) were killed in a head-on collision with a suspected drunk driver on Sunday.

Two Gauteng police officers were also arrested for allegedly driving under the influence over the weekend, the local police office said on Monday (24 August).

According to local police, 740 suspects, including two officers, have so far been arrested for drinking and driving.

South Africa’s controversial alcohol ban was lifted for a second time on 17 August, after months of confusion in the country’s wine, beer and spirits sector.

Williams said that the the recent rise of fatal accidents following the reopening of liquor sales is “a cause for concern”.

“It cannot be acceptable that three Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) officers are among the people who died in alcohol-related vehicle accidents that occurred in Gauteng this past weekend. Government sends its condolences to the families and loved ones of the three officers who died in such a tragic manner.”

She went on to call on the country’s liquor industry to work with the government to help curb problem drinking.

In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and free up hospital beds, President Cyril Ramaphosa placed a blanket ban on alcohol sales when South Africa went into lockdown on 26 March. Since then, the ban has been lifted and reinstated a number of times. A ban on exports was lifted on 7 April only to be imposed again on 16 April, then re-allowed once more on 1 May.

On 26 May, the government announced that retailers could open again and recommence the sale of alcohol for at-home consumption, but the government said shortly afterwards that this caused a spike in alcohol related harm and injury, which was placing a burden on hospitals at a time when the country seemed to be heading towards peak infections. Sales were banned for a second time on 12 July.

It has been reported that during the nine-week lockdown, the South African alcohol industry has lost R18 billion in revenue (£852.8 million) and R3.4 billion (£142.1m) in excise tax. The loss of excise tax is a direct result of increasing sales of illegal alcohol products which don’t pay taxes.

It was originally thought the ban would stay in place until September, but it was lifted again last week due to mounting pressure from  the wine and hospitality sector and from regional governments, particularly in the Western Cape. 

During a press conference on Monday, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said: “People are out of control in terms of alcohol.”

“We must now put our heads together…while there is Covid we must review our laws in terms of alcohol access.”

Mbalula said that South Africa had already struggled with alcohol-related crime long before the coronavirus pandemic swept through the country, and while lockdown “brought some control, we now know what alcohol can do and does to our society, it has been going on, and on, and on, and we’ve got to somehow contain that.”


17 Responses to “South African government laments alcohol-related deaths”

  1. Danielle says:

    Good day,

    Please rather close petrol sales and allow all people in South Africa to make there way with public and private car hire services rather than allowing the sale of alcohol to be banned. The problem is not that people drink liquor but that they feel its a right to get into an owned car and drive drive drunk. Most of us use alcohol as a way to relax after coming home to the stress feeding, bathing and putting 4 kids to bed and really appreciate going to the fridge and getting a drink to unwind rather than going out to drink. If people were not allowed to drive rather than not allowed to drink it would decrease the drunk driving.

    Just a thought

    • Masabeng says:

      And how will the cars that are being hired move from point A to B without petrol?‍♀️‍♀️

    • Raymond says:

      South Africa has of the dumbest ministers in the world. Before the covid 19 and the lockdown all these accidents happened that they blame now on alcohol. This accident will still happen long after this pandemic is done. This is more about politics and ministers that is power hunger. The police minister brags about crime that was down during the lockdown…hallo people was staying at home…Zuma ban alcohol but if I was the alcohol industry I would not even supply alcohol for the health care sector…remember she ban alcohol. But they ban this without thinking and doing their homework because banning of the alcohol has also a major impact on the glass industry. Most of our ministers is over the age of 65 and when people reach that age we must go on pension. Our ministers is in fact a retirement village.

  2. Michael says:

    Honestly speaking wheres the logic in closing liquor stores @ 17;00 while a lot of people are still at work by that time?
    Again whats the reason for all roads to be filled with metro police and Police before the given curfew?
    the liquor industry is going to go under hot waters as they keep on playing with people’s bread(Salaries) by play and pause.
    i say let the people drink in peace and arrest those who are under the influence driving only after the given curfew.

  3. Rudy Govender says:

    Taverns and bars should also close on Thursday 5pm. Give our streets back to responsible drivers. Impose harsh sentences and hard labour for offenders. No mercy and no pardons to D.U.I.

  4. Angelique Louw says:

    I second your comment Danielle. It is really irresponsible behavior causing issues with everything else

  5. Werner says:

    Banning alcohol is not the answer, implementing our law is what needs to happen. Police need to start doing there work. Let people that enjoy a social drink do so. I enjoy a drink at home, I do not go to pubs and drink and then drive home, why should I be punished and I am sure there are thousands off off South Africans that feels the same.
    Just another thought.

  6. Nelson says:

    It simply tells you that the police are not doj g their job. Why there’s people on the streets after 22:00? Why are the no police cars, vans and soldiers visible at night? Alcohol has nothing to do with the police inconsistency therefore please leave alcohol alone. Rather put more police patrol cars on the streets.

  7. Dhayalan Gounden says:

    I feel that the Government should just ban the sale an consumption of liquor till this covid pandemic is over.

  8. Zakes says:

    Good Day I Strongly Believe When It Comes To Fatal Accident Death Related Caused By Alcohol Related Accident We all As Human i feel there is no one who can Stand a pain of loosing a family member or a loved one in such manner my point is basically On This Statement ““It cannot be acceptable that three Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) officers are among the people who died in alcohol-related vehicle accidents that occurred in Gauteng this past weekend. Government sends its condolences to the families and loved ones of the three officers who died in such a tragic manner.” Yes The TMPD Officers Where Doing Their Job Unfortunately Unforeseen Circumstance happened it is such a painful loss of life but we cant justify that it is unacceptable that for the TMPD Officers Are Among The People Who died In Alcohol Related Accident Also It is infect it is Unacceptable that all people who died in Alcohol Related accident Had To Die Not Only TMPD OFFICERS I say This Because There are other innocent People who died also and Government Should Send Condolence To Everyone Who Got Impacted By this circumstance.

  9. Lungisa says:

    I think the tarverns must be closed at 18:00 during the week and at 14:00 on Saturdays .On Sundays must remain closed.

  10. Cyprian says:

    I strongly believe that there is nothing wrong with the sale of alchohol, police should play their part by arresting all those who drink and drive.
    It should not be seen or taken as if accidents started to happen now after the reinstatement of the sale of alchohol, they have been our daily
    bread and the government should intensify the law if need be. It should also be borne in mind that there are people out there who loose their
    income from the ban of alchohol.

  11. Jay says:

    So all blame bottle stores to quickly for all the accident that take place on our roads. Yet the 3 policeman that were killed happened on a Sunday morning. Bottle stores were closed. What stops people to go to shebeens and taverns and buy alcohol there. They should trade same hours as the bottle stores Monday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm
    Another thing is beaches are open, in East London I have seen beach spots filled everyone having a braai and drinking, no social distancing what so ever but nothing gets done there.
    After drinking there they get into vehicles that is loaded and drive home. People ride around well after 22:00 and not once have I seen a police van in sight. So yes more policing should be out there and if you caught on the road after curfew then fine them. But don’t always punish the bottle store for all the accident s that happen on the roads and the staff that work at bottle stores have to sit at home with no income. People should take more responsibility for their actions.

  12. Lindsay Rajah says:

    I am a health care worker and have been on the “frontline” for more than 10 years now. We see first hand how alcohol affects our nation. It isnt just “drunk driving” that causes deaths. Think about the thousands that die from domestic violence related to alcohol, drunk pedestrians who work into on-coming traffic while intoxicated and assaults occurring “between friends” when one or both have had too much.
    This trend of alcohol causing violence is predictable and well documented. So much so that we HCWs joke that the breweries should sponsor us for long weekends and over the December holidays!
    It’s no laughing matter! We see so many people die from the consequences of a decision to drink too much. Many more are left with permanent disabilities. Traumatic brain injuries, amputations, eye injuries leading to blindness and so many injuries that result in otherwise young, fit individuals being impaired for life and dependent on social welfare grants.
    You may say “I drink responsibly, so should my drinking be regulated aswell?
    ” well if you do… well done! You, however, are a unicorn amongst drinkers.
    The sad truth is that WE (as a nation) are not able to self-regulate our intake, and the consequences of this are tragic, and worse, preventable!
    I whole-heartedly believe in stricter alcohol regulation by government. This way responsible “social” drinkers can have their share and the vulnerable are still protected from the reckless.

  13. Grim says:

    People used to buy ther alcohol on Friday afternoons after work. Now they buy it on Thursdays and are tempted to drink it before the weekend. Closing the stores on weekend has actually caused people to buy more in case they run out by the weekend.

  14. Shaun says:

    Its very simple. If the police were out doing their jobs, having roadblocks etc people would not take the chance and drink and drive. People drink and drive because there are no consequences. Currently if you actually get caught a simple bribe makes it go away. Unfortunately the failings of the police to do their jobs will once again impact on peoples lively hoods.If you go to the UK, no-one takes a chance by drinking and driving. If you get caught you get the might of the law thrown against you. This is like blaming the car for accidents and not the driver.

    Saying it is creating a burden on needed hospital beds is also government blaming the public for their shortcomings in preparing for covid. Surely when preparing for a disaster you have to take into account the beds that would always be required and then add on what you forecast will be needed. Government used the initial 21 day lockdown to steal funds rather then build hospitals as the public were told. It is easy to blame something

    Taxi’s are also a main contributor to road accidents, un-roadworthy vehicles, non licensed drivers, overloading etc etc. Nothing will get done to the taxi industry though. The Taxi industry controls the transport department and the minister. Try control the taxi industry and they simply ignore the laws or block highways and roads.

  15. tracy says:

    Alcohol was a major problem years before Covid hit the country!!! Now the Government thinks they can do something about this, ridiculous. People are making their own brew at home and drinking it the same as the smokers who were quite prepared to pay the price being charged for cigarettes. Where there is a will there is a way. Please do not get me wrong, I am not a drinker but at the same time the Government cannot blame the current situation in the country on the alcohol this has been an on going problem for more years than I can remember, maybe if they stopped the crap of banning everything, people would settle down fractionally and not panic everytime the ban is lifted by over indulging. Arrest the idiots who are not obeying the rules by all means, but why make the entire country suffer. Please people be realistic about this entire situation.

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