Bheki Cele: ‘I wish alcohol ban could be extended beyond lockdown’

Police minister warns public against fake videos and pulls no punches when it comes to alcohol prohibition laws, saying they should remain in place even after lockdown

Police Minister Bheki Cele has given the clearest indication yet that regulations prohibiting the sale and drinking of alcohol during the lockdown will not be relaxed, even remarking that he wished they were extended beyond this period.

Cele has placed alcohol at the centre of South Africa’s high crime rate. He told City Press during an interview this week that there had been a significant drop in the number of violent crimes reported since the lockdown began on Friday, March 27.

“It is a known thing that alcohol is part of the crime generators … [When it comes to] most people who are murdered or sexually abused, it usually starts on Thursday until the end of the weekend [and] those people will be found at alcohol outlets,” he said.


The minister said he believed that minimising the use of alcohol was a step in the right direction for the country.

He said it was one of the regulations he wished he could continue implementing even beyond the lockdown period.

“My first prize would be that we shut down alcohol, but I know we cannot do that. Nothing tells me that taking alcohol will make life easier,” he said.

This week, lobby group the SA Drug Policy Initiative said the ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco during the lockdown should be reversed as soon as possible.

The organisation said the lockdown plan was discriminating against the poor, was putting the health of the mentally ill and the marginalised at risk, and was gifting crime syndicates and gangs with another source of income.

According to statistics bandied about in news reports this week, 87 000 cases of gender-based violence were reported over the past week.

However, Cele said these numbers were, in fact, from 2019.

About 15 000 cases had been reported this year, he said, of which 2 320 were reported during the lockdown.

Charges had been laid regarding 184 cases.

“For South Africa, alcohol has not been the only issue when it comes to regulations relating to the Covid-19 coronavirus. Murder has gone down in South Africa. Even in the butcher of the republic, the Western Cape, murder numbers have really gone down. The impact of the reduction of alcohol has had an impact on ordinary crime, especially violent crime,” added Cele.

The lockdown had even reduced the number of cash-in-transit heists, he said, thanks to the countrywide roadblocks and increased police visibility.

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