The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Polity.
With or without alcohol, we are an aggressive society
Mr. President, I have a humongous migraine. It began with immediate effect at 8.33 pm on
Sunday when you allegedly addressed the nation. It was triggered by your statement that you had decided to reimpose the night curfew and ban the sale, dispensing and distribution of alcohol “with immediate effect”. Unfortunately, the speech was swapped at the last minute. What you delivered to us was a scolding meant for your senior party leaders who allegedly organised parties and live press conferences during the lockdown. The speech was aimed at members of that ill-named structure, the ANC’s National Executive Committee. In your own words: “There are several people who have taken to organising parties, and who have drinking sprees.” Well, guess what, Mr President, it’s not us. The proverbial 40 infected people from one birthday party were all allegedly leaders of your glorious movement. Of course, someone reported the heightened activity of SUVs but the local police didn’t intervene because it was the aristocrats of the revolution gathering, not the Alexandra man, the late Collins Khosa, and his friends.
To prove that the speech wasn’t meant for us, you forgot to say the magic words: “God bless South Africa and protect her people.” Instead, you scolded us, Mr President, calling us, “careless and reckless”. As punishment, you told us to get into full minibus taxis, and you cut off our life support, sorry, I mean alcohol supply. At the same time, you told us not to visit our family at their homes, but we can meet our folks at church, funerals and restaurants. We can also mingle with them in fully loaded local minibus taxis. Genius! All because of the 40 leaders of your faction-infested political party who were allegedly chauffeur-driven to the exclusive birthday party by loyal members of the Blue Light Brigade, really? Mr President, “une-liver” — the audacity to kill a thriving economy underwritten by some of the finest beers, wines, whiskeys and spirits.
These alcoholic beverages keep more than half of legal drug addicts sane and functioning at half their capacity, just like the rest of the economy under your leadership. I hate to tell you this but alcohol keeps my marriage going. A couple that drinks alcohol together, Mr President, stays together. Sometimes when I am drunk, I propose again to my wife. She finds this hilarious. Then you made a startling claim that 1 000 people in SA attended a funeral under the state of disaster; and nobody spotted this? Despite the brazenness of the act, the funeral wasn’t broken up by your soldiers, over 73 000 of them, or your 193 000 police officers on active duty. Njani?
Mr President, the rise in gender-based violence and car accidents, which result in high hospital emergency room admissions, are symptoms of a sick society, not side effects of alcohol. Both epidemics predate the Covid-19 storm. Mr President, the Russians drink more pure alcohol per person per hour than the rest of us. These Russian drunkards don’t suddenly mistake their wives or girlfriends and friends for a punching bag. Alcohol doesn’t improve the Brits’ appalling firearm statistics, despite the availability of warm beer every three square metres. And Americans remain ahead of the British in firearm usage for the uniquely American sport of mass shooting. The real alcoholics that I am familiar with, Mr President, don’t even know how to walk home after imbibing. They pass out and become easy prey for the slay queens and/or shebeen queens or kings who clean their wallets using alcohol- based sanitisers. Real alcoholics drink themselves silly and fall down, and break an arm or leg, if not both. You can’t honestly believe that a drunk person manages to aim for the heart with a knife, or the head with a gun?
Where I grew up, drinking before causing trouble was always deliberate and premeditated. One would proclaim, “ngizomphuzela inip”, meaning I am going to drink my half-jack and show him flames. It’s a mindset of a sick society that needs to change — with or without alcohol, we show each other flames daily. Mr President, just because of some 40-odd ill-disciplined cadres who allegedly organised a birthday party and got themselves infected, you have now turned SA into a giant alcohol rehab centre without even injecting some of us with methadone. Thina sifelani? My migraine is getting worse. I can’t even tell the difference between stage two load shedding and level three Covid-19 lockdown. I need to lie down. Till next week, my man. “Send me.”
This Letter to Mahlamba Ndlopfu is written by Bhekisisa Mncube, a former Zulu ambassador based in Pretoria, now a self-appointed presidential special envoy. He is an author and former senior Witness political journalist. This opinion piece was first published in the Witness