Booze curfew breaks the cycle of violence on the Wild Coast

Mabhokomela Bona­kele tips the heavy, navy-and-yellow plastic five-litre bucket and gulps gluttonously. Rhythmic waves of satisfaction pulse across his throat and chest. A sour smell so dense that it can almost be tasted hangs in the air and melds with the salt from the nearby ocean.

Bonakele’s hands are worn, his eyes blood red, his blue overall weathered. The local sub-chief clenches his fingers around the container that once held acrylic roof paint. It is a grip that signifies experience; he’s done this many, many times before.

“When I feel like I need a beer, I visit this shebeen. I don’t worry about what time it is,” he exclaims after a final swallow and passes the bucket of umnandi, or traditional Xhosa sorghum beer, on to the man next to him.

It’s a few minutes after nine in the morning. Outside the dark drinking den, the sun is already high in a turquoise sky, bathing the hut in warmth. Inside, the group of 11 elderly men began gathering about an hour before on a creaky wooden bench.

more on