Alcohol is our bread and butter, say tavern owners after Cele’s call for a complete ban

Tavern owners say police minister Bheki Cele's calls for a complete alcohol ban is a threat to their livelihoods.
Tavern owners say police minister Bheki Cele's calls for a complete alcohol ban is a threat to their livelihoods.
Image: City of Cape Town

Police minister Bheki Cele’s calls to end the sale of alcohol or possibly alter how and when it is sold after the 21-day lockdown is hopefully something that will not materialise.

These are the views of two Mpumalanga tavern owners who say that for them, sellimg alcohol is what put bread and butter on the table for their families.

*Kgomotso owns a tavern in Witbank and has thus far adhered to the lockdown conditions.

“I lost thousands of rands because the lockdown happened in the week where I generate the most income, payday weekend,” he told TimesLIVE, speaking from his home .

“I use the money that I make off alcohol sales to build the house I have, taken my children to university and maintain the life that we all live. So honestly speaking, Cele’s comments and hate for alcohol are something that I take personally,” he said.

"I also employ two people at my business who are able to feed their families. The brewery that delivers to me ... employs people too. So do you see how many people are fed and clothed and just get to eat because of this thing that Bheki Cele hates so much?" Kgomotso said.

*Dumisani who runs his own tavern in a different section of Witbank shares the same views.

“Why does he not rather threaten [to close the shops of] those who fail to comply with the law, those who don’t have licences, those who sell alcohol to underage children? I am a tavern owner, yes, but I think I run my business ethically. We are able to even stop selling to someone who we feel has had enough to drink and send them home,” he said.

Dumisani said he was comforted by knowing that Cele’s calls would never to come to fruition.

“That will never happen,” he said, chuckling. “Alcohol will never stop being sold in SA just because one man doesn’t like it. He can see what SA is like without alcohol. Crime is going up because people want it,” he added.

But this is not completely correct. Despite some incidents of liquor outlets being broken into, crime, according to police statistics, is lower. However, cases of domestic violence are up as families are confined to their homes.

Cele, however, had on Tuesday, during his visit to Witbank and Embalenhle in Secunda, said hospitals were seeing fewer patients come in because of stab wounds, pedestrians being knocked down and people being injured in fights.

 “Hospitals are able to do what they are meant to do,” he said. “Crimes of murder, crimes of attempted murder and house robberies have gone down. I am told that there are two things that are giving us these good times. It is your visibility and the lack of something called alcohol,” he told police officers in Secunda.

“I just hope that one day there will be no liquor. It is my hope and my wish. Well, I don’t run the country but what has happened when you look at the crime stats, for the fact that shebeens are closed and people are sleeping … they don’t move around to shebeens and taverns, drinking uncontrollably, that has reduced our crime. So we must cherish this time and we must learn our lessons from this time and some of these lessons must be taken forward,” Cele said.

He has frequently called for the ban of alcohol sales even post lockdown, saying he did not understand what the fascination was with the substance. 

“I don’t know what it is you put in this alcohol to such an extent that you go KwaLanga and instead of stealing the food, you break into the alcohol shop. What is it that is in alcohol?” he asked.

He also called for the public to stop making requests for alcohol to be sold for three hours each day.

“There are no bottle stores that are going to be opened here. Until the 16th, there will be no bottle store, not a drop and, to the cops: anybody that comes close to alcohol, arrest them!” he ordered.

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