Banned Or Not, The Black Market Keeps Booze Flowing In South Africa

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that, despite a Government-instated ban on alcohol and cigarettes, there is a roaring black market and while many legal companies who pay excise and salaries are just about to close their doors, the population is still drinking and smoking away.

This also happened during the initial ban in the course of lockdown. I do think, however, lockdown prevented the extent to which it was possible to trade illegally. I have no statistics, it is a black market after all, but following social media, being in discussions and hearing stories first-hand, I know that with the exception of a some law-abiding citizens, many still get their so-called fixes and they are willing to pay the inflated prices!

Government’s main reason for the ban is the pressure alcohol-related incidents (accidents and violence) place on the medical system. (Read more) These statistics are being questioned and it is important to keep in mind that increases are indicated against a time when everyone was staying at home. Lockdown did prevent most incidents – alcohol related or not. Having said that: alcohol abuse is a serious concern – even when hospital capacity is not in question.

The alcohol industry is committed to responsible alcohol use and the purpose of the Code for Commercial Communications under the auspices of (the association for alcohol responsibility and education), is to “represent a firm commitment by the members of across the alcohol industry eco-system to maintain high standards of responsibility and ethical conduct in all of their commercial communication activities”. The aim is to provide clear guidelines for the responsible marketing of wine and other liquor products, and thereby curbing alcohol abuse in communities. “The wine industry supports the Code wholeheartedly,” says Rico Basson, managing director of wine industry body Vinpro. “We understand the necessity of self-regulation in an environment in which the misuse of our products can have far-reaching negative effects. By adhering to the Code, each cellar, retailer and marketing agency takes ownership and commits to being more mindful of the way in which we present our products to the general public.” (Read more) I don’t think anyone is under any illusion that such responsibility applies to the black market…

Are there any parallels with the American Prohibition? “The 1920s script of what happened in the US during Prohibition is happening now in South Africa,” said Derek Yach, the president of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World,* who is South African. “This goes to prove the lengths people will go to – the innovation they’ll adopt – to track down what they want.” (Read more) Whether it is moonshining or mafia-like activities, smoking and drinking are happening.

At the moment, those who are committed to responsible alcohol use are not involved in selling alcohol, so they can’t make their normal (heavily taxed) contributions to SARS and they are forced into a position where they have to retrench staff in an environment where employment already is an enormous challenge. But the booze keeps flowing…