- Thandiwe Ntshinga
If only Cele was as passionate about gender-based violence as he is about controlling our drinking.
Police Minister Bheki Cele's recent fixation with the prohibition of liquor in South Africa has been as intriguing as it has been infuriating. All over the news and social media, his angry rants make clear his disdain towards alcohol. Essentially, Cele is declaring our national total lockdown a war against booze and not the coronavirus. Spitting fire, Cele has ordered that police arrest those who violate the restrictions of lockdown. The public possession of liquor is now intolerable as Cele has commanded that until the end of our lockdown there will be "no bottle store, no-drop". Our Police Minister has even gone as far as to murmur ideas of a permanent ban on alcohol sales post-lockdown.
A permanent ban on alcohol will never happen in South Africa, this something I am confident about. However, while South Africans have had to oblige to Cele's power high, I cannot help but wonder; why is he like this? It was common knowledge in Botswana that former Motswana president Ian Khama's crackdown on liquor during his tenure stemmed from childhood trauma as a result of an alcoholic father. What about Cele? What made him so angry? How did alcohol hurt him? Most importantly, where is that same energy when it comes to gender-based violence, rape and femicide? There are serious crimes committed regularly in this country, is focusing on utywala truly top priority?
Bheki Cele's narrow linking of alcohol to criminality is blinding him from what is real. We are all at home—not drinking—and reported cases of domestic violence have dramatically increased since lockdown's ban on liquor. In actuality, Cele is proving what feminist organisations have long been saying: it's clear that the government does not care about womxn in this country. Somehow, it is still shocking that time and time again, this is confirmed as a South African fact. That the Police Minister can be so nonchalant about South Africa's staggering prevalence of rape, femicide and gender-based violence and yet put so much emphasis on punishing drinkers makes no sense—it is nonsensical. Cele is simply a reflection of a government that does not prioritise womxn and our safety. The South African government has a way of showing up only when it wants to—usually when international eyes are watching us. 2010 was the safest I have ever felt in this country during the FIFA World Cup. This week, President Ramaphosa has shown us, again, how the patriarchy has made womxn, particularly Black womxn, dispensable in this country with the suspension of Minister of Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. That Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams is being suspended for violating lockdown regulations is understandable however that Ramaphosa is capable of taking speedy disciplinary action against Nbadeni-Abrahams when he was unable (or unwilling) to do the same towards former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for his indiscretions is telling.
South Africans love drinking. Perhaps a bit too much. Our dependency on alcohol is resulting in liquor store break-ins nationwide. That said, if bottle stores were open there would be no need break-ins in the first place. Very rarely do I agree with white liberals but Tom Head makes valid points in his opinion piece for The South African where he states that "Bheki Cele's war on alcohol is futile [and] misguided".