A sign of a state being successful in its striving towards totalitarianism lies not so much in its implementation of laws and regulations deemed important to control its population as it does in its duping the populace into believing that this enforcement is necessary. As Iranian-American academic and author Azar Nafisi wrote: “The worst crime committed by totalitarian mind-sets is that they force their citizens, including their victims, to become complicit in their crimes.”
With this third stage of banning the sale of wine and other alcohol as part of its feeble Corona-strategy, the South African government has shown it is edging closer to the state of oppression and social control it so strongly desires by seemingly winning the hearts and minds of its people.
With a couple of exceptions, the majority of South Africans rejected the banning of alcohol and wine sales during last year’s shut-down. Hell, being new to this lockdown-thing, the country objected roundly to many of the government’s laws. This mostly unilateral moral revolt was, of course, made easier by a couple of uniquely brain-dead regulations laid-down by president Ramaphosa and his Covid Command Council. Such as it being illegal to buy warm pies for eating and open shoes for wearing.
A glass of wine and cold beer joined a list of consumables deemed illegal, their banning apparently necessary armaments in the fight against Covid-19.
The third liquor ban came flying in at the end of last year, and signs are here that the public is increasingly supporting the banning of the selling of wine, spirits and beer. Whether society’s sudden increase in support and tolerance of the liquor ban is the result of plain Corona fatigue, a generally greater moral vigilance caused by the undeniable concerning path of death and social tragedy of Covid-19 or an all-round increase in puritanical values due to this state of human vulnerability, this is open to question.
That the government is winning the moral high ground through the tagging of liquor as the evil that keeps dying people out of hospital wards, is a fact. Social media is full of this support. Media commentators and those who call into their talk-shows assertively state the need for a ban on liquor. Even the Western Cape government, home to the wine industry, uses each opportunity to underscore the necessity of this lock-down on wine sales.
Those of us who did military service in the army will remember that saying of the most important battle being winning the “hearts and minds” of the local populations among whom the enemy moved. Prohibition Ramaphosa has done exactly that. The minions are backing his message.
If alcohol is resulting in greater trauma-ward admissions due to drink-fuelled violence and motor vehicle accidents, the fault lies on the side of the South African authorities before the blame can be placed on the alcohol industry.
Through a lack of will to regulate and poor policing, the government has allowed the proliferation of illegal, unlicensed liquor-outlets. There are over 180 000 booze-sellers plying their trade – or waiting to do so once the ban is lifted – and these illegal sellers are going about their business with the apparent consent of the authorities. That 180 000 is double the number of the country’s legal liquor outlets. Suffice to say a large number of these trauma cases apparently choking hospitals are the result of this illicit liquor trading, which the government has a responsibility to shut-down. And is not doing.
Since anti-Corona measures were placed on society last year, the supposed contract stipulates that regulations would be enforced and policed in order to apply the measures deemed necessary to protect South Africans against the spread of Covid-19. Thus, when anti-liquor laws were relaxed last year to permit the sale of alcohol, where was the regulatory vigilance to ensure the safety of the population? Currently I can’t set foot on Clifton beach without being hauled-off in the sand-strewn cage of a police van. So, where were was all this concerned policing when society began drinking again? Had it been applied, surely a greater awareness of the need for responsible behaviour would have lessened the degree of booze-fuelled depravity.
This is how it works. Or is supposed to work.
What has now happened, is that the rights of a large number of South Africans have been assaulted. Responsible consumers of a legal product have no reason to have the right to do so taken from them. Irresponsible consumers and illegal liquor sellers do not have the same rights as responsible consumers. I have the right to own a dog. Once I begin mistreating that animal, I lose this right. What’s so difficult to understand?
Especially concerning is that the past 10 months has given the government a taste of the vast power it can wield on millions of people by means of a few sentences. If its action of banning liquor sales is not protested against and legally questioned, the door will gradually be opened for bans and lockdowns and restrictions in a post-Corona world. Anytime the social fabric is deemed disrupted, liquor could be made a potential scapegoat along with other elements that were – up until now – for many law-abiding people a daily way of life.
To be complicit to the liquor ban is admitting to having allowed the government to pull the wool over your eyes. And makes you an idiot, useful or otherwise.