South Africa: As Alcohol Sparks Apartheid-Style Repression Once More, We Must All Be Alarmed

A police officer adjusts a colleague’s mask (file photo).

In one of the liquor-linked lockdown abuses by the security forces, members of the SANDF stand accused of beating to death a man in Alexandra they found drinking in his own yard.

Among the sickening images of security force abuses during the Covid-19 lockdown is that showing the pouring away of a large quantity of home-brewed beer by the police in the Eastern Cape. This action has deprived people of nutrition, as umqombothi, like utshwala, is sorghum-based. It also conjures up the similar disturbing images of the apartheid police destroying large quantities of home-brewed liquor in Cato Manor in 1959 - action which fuelled the growing opposition of the oppressed to apartheid policies.

Beer is a symbol par excellence of colonial and apartheid repression. Perhaps the police minister does not know that for over a century, successive repressive governments implemented laws to try and stop illegal brewing, and block access to all but state-sponsored beer halls, by black Africans, but without success. Does he not know or care that, while the state loses tax revenues on the legal sale of liquor the only people who benefit from prohibition are organised crime networks, which already operate with devastating success in South...

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