Alcohol ban not quite the answer

Limiting legal access to alcohol is unlikely to significantly influence people towards responsible behaviour, the writer says.
Limiting legal access to alcohol is unlikely to significantly influence people towards responsible behaviour, the writer says.
Image: 123RF/Vladislavs Gorniks

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane has called for the resumption of a ban on alcohol sales in the province.

"Alcohol is a problem generally. In our command council as a province we said we must lobby to close down this problem," the premier said.

Mabuyane raised concerns about how some had celebrated the re-opening of the sale of alcohol last week and went on to overindulge and behaved recklessly in the face of a pandemic spreading rapidly in the province.

His frustration is perhaps to be understood.

The province, like elsewhere in SA, had recorded a surge in alcohol-related trauma cases in the last week, with East London's Frere Hospital alone recording at least 67 cases at the weekend.

Furthermore, videos on social media showed scores of young people drinking heavily and partying on the streets in different parts of the province in clear violation of lockdown regulations at the weekend.

These incidents gave insight into embedded oblivion or recklessness among many communities about the dangers of Covid-19.

They also legitimise fears that the Eastern Cape, which has shown a rapid increase in infections in recent weeks, will be one of the worst hit by the pandemic.

However, while the sale of alcohol has contributed to the destructive human behaviour, calling for a reinforcement of the ban may not necessarily be the solution.

If anything, it is likely to embolden those who are resistant to complying because they believe that the current regulations are a violation of personal liberties and have no rational basis.

Limiting legal access to alcohol is unlikely to significantly influence people towards responsible behaviour.

The government must work with and use existing community networks to effectively drive home the message of behavioural change among individuals and communities.

It must also recognise that much of the behaviour we have seen has a lot to do with a belief that our policing system is too infective to hold those who break the rules and endanger others legally accountable.

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