This calls for a sober reflection

beer, beer in a glass, craft beer
Image: 123RF/Brent Hofacker

There can be no question of a proven link between SA's excessive consumption of alcohol and our high crime rate. This is especially true of violent, spur of the moment types of crimes.

The first week of our national lockdown as the nation seeks to curb the spread of Covid-19 has seen a significant drop in crime incidents reported compared to the same week last year.

Of course, this drop is likely the result of a combination of alcohol regulations, the heavy prohibition of movement as well as the visibility of law enforcement officers in our communities.

Regardless, it is understandable that police minister Bheki Cele would wish that the current laws banning the sale of alcohol would be extended beyond the lockdown period.

However, that will not happen.

First, such an indefinite ban on alcohol, regardless of its merits, would raise important questions about the government's abuse of power and a creeping authoritarian culture which, if allowed, only becomes incremental.

Politically, Cele would struggle to get the idea passed by his peers - of all parties - let alone get it accepted by a thirsty nation already showing signs of social strain just one week away from the bottle stores.

Economically, such a ban would be devastating and its ripple effects would be far reaching. Yet, valid as these may be, they do not erase the fact that the abuse of alcohol is the single-biggest contributor to violent crime in our country.

So what is to be done?

The truth is there is no single, magic solution.

In this country there are various reasons people abuse alcohol. Most prevalent of these being that for some, alcohol like any other drug, is a form of escapism from our daily troubles, whether economic or otherwise.

Throughout generations, we are wired to escape or deflect from the emotional toll of our structural problems.

For this reason, we are likely to chase successive periods of momentary diversion that comes with alcohol, rather than find alternative ways of coping.

Whether it is clinically diagnosed or simply categorised as social drinking, the dependency on alcohol is ultimately what we must confront as a nation.

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