South Africa: Counting the Cost of Cheap, Easily Available Alcohol in South Africa


For hundreds of years under colonialism and apartheid, the 'dop' system made cheap wine available to farm workers in lieu of part of their wages. They did not buy it directly themselves - white farmers would buy the wine in large quantities for next to nothing and dispense it to those working for them. It saved the farmers money and enslaved the workers.

The consequences of this nefarious system - which is said to continue quietly in some places today, even though it has been legally outlawed - include widespread addiction to alcohol in affected communities and South Africa's unenviable position as the country with the highest incidence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) in the world.

But, though the "dop" system is not as ubiquitous as it once was, cheap wine is still available in the form of the notorious "rooi proppies" - distinctive red-topped five-litre plastic containers - that even the unemployed can scrape together enough money to buy.

The damage to the health and well-being of the consumers of this replacement for "papsak" wine (an earlier cheap wine product that was supposedly banned in 2017) is not substantially different to that of the "beneficiaries" of the dop...

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