Buying a bottle not licence to be reckless

Patrons buy alcohol in Tembisa
Patrons buy alcohol in Tembisa
Image: Thulani Mbele

If you braved a cold winter morning to go and queue outside a bottle store to buy alcohol, own it – you are an alcoholic.

Really? In the middle of the novel coronavirus pandemic which has claimed close to 400,000 lives worldwide, you, my fellow countrymen, went out there and waited for hours just to purchase your favourite cold beverages.

As we woke up on Monday morning, scores of South Africans formed snake-long queues waiting for liquor outlets to open.

Security guards had their hands full to enforce social distancing among the jolly crowds excited they were finally allowed to buy drinks after two months.

“We are tired of drinking umqombothi [traditional beer], we have been very thirsty,” shouted a group of patrons at the Spar Tops in Tembisa as hundreds lined up outside as early as 7am.

Another excited patron said they were very happy the regulations were relaxed as alcohol “has nothing to do with coronavirus”.

Others at a Pretoria liquor store sang joyously Sangena, Sangena, (we are getting in) when the shop opened as their queue began moving.

This was shocking to witness; there is nothing wrong with drinking liquor, I do too. But if you are willing to wake up at 6am on a cold winter morning just to go and buy it, clearly you have a problem.

The first thing I advise you do after lockdown is to seek professional help for your dependency on the bottle.

As I watched guards reminding crowds to social distance, I wondered if they forgot that coronavirus was a reality, that had already killed hundreds locally?

Even as we wear masks in public, social distance and sanitise our hands in a bid to protect ourselves, there are no guarantees we will not contract the virus.

Experts said winter would be a peak season for the virus and estimated that by later this year, 40,000 people would have died. It could be me, you, anyone, as nobody is safe. Each day I have had to leave my house to go and buy food for my family, I worry about what if I contract the virus today? I worry about what will happen to my young kids if I do not make it, as the world is a cruel place without a mother.

The death toll stood at over 700 in SA yesterday and 371,000 worldwide. These are not just figures, but people killed by Covid-19. So forgive me for judging you for risking it all to recklessly rejoice with strangers waiting to get your hands on booze.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the country would be moving to level 3 two weeks ago, I was sad but I understood where he was coming from.

Thousands of people have lost their jobs, others had run out food, so the president had to re-start the economy to save livelihoods.

But that was not a licence for us to be reckless; no matter how thirsty you were, you could have waited for lines to go down later in the week or the following week.

Bottle stores are not going anywhere, they will remain open Mondays to Thursdays.

We have to be responsible, do all we can to protect ourselves and loved ones. Government did what it could, now it is up to us. The jobs being saved need us to be alive to rebuild the economy. Let us choose life; we will be corona-free one day and life will return to normal.

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