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December drinking puts spotlight on SA’s bad habits

As December continues, some South Africans are likely to be spending end of the year bonuses on booze in what the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dubbed one of Africa’s hardest drinking nations.

Heroin use was highest in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, while alcohol abuse dominated in-patient centres in KwaZulu-Natal, the Northern Cape and the North West.

A WHO report released in May defined heavy or binge drinking as consuming at least four beers or more in one sitting. The report found that about four percent of South African had drank heavily at least once in the past month. This percentage was about four times higher in men.

“It is festive season and – with a large number of Christmas parties and the availability of bonuses – it means people will consume more alcohol,” said Savera Kaildeen, advocacy manager of Phuza Wize, a campaign to encourage responsible drinking. Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication heads the campaign.

This is not news to alcohol companies, who spend half of annual advertising budgets on marketing alcohol between October and December, according to Kaildeen. She adds that as South Africans prepare to party, the nation should be angry that not more is done to curb the binge drinking and illegal liquor outlets. Unregulated, some of these outlets may also be selling to minors.

Jabulile Nkosi from Soweto prepares annually for festive drinking with the help of her alcohol stokvel. Her monthly contribution of R400 ensures she receives R4800 in booze just in time for the festive season.

“The reality is we drink more during the festive season than any other time of the year, so planning for it will save costs,” Nkosi said. “There is so much happening during the festive season, from house parties to Christmas lunches and braais.”

Joining the stokvel means Nkosi does not stress about stocking up on alcohol to ensure she does not arrive empty handed at functions.

She admits she is unlikely to finish her almost R5000 in alcohol and will likely store some for her sister’s May wedding.

December drinking

Lindiwe Matona also says she and friends spend about R300 per month to stock up on alcohol throughout the year as part of a similar stokvel. In December, members get four bottles of hard liquor, which some members say lasts about three weeks. For Matona, the arrangement helps her keep up with festive expectations around drinking while saving her salary for Christmas gifts and school fees, she says.[quote float=”right”]”The reality is we drink more during the festive season than any other time of the year”

A WHO report released in May defined heavy or binge drinking as consuming at least four beers or more in one sitting. The report found that about four percent of South African had drank heavily at least once in the past month. This percentage was about four times higher in men.

Heavy drinking is also a major contributor to violence, domestic abuse and road accidents, according to Phuza Wize’s Kalideen. She adds that she believes government and the alcohol industry are not doing enough to curb the practice by, for instance, cracking down on illegal shebeens.

According to Kalideen, liquor outlets can only legally sell alcohol between 10am and 2am but she says unlicensed taverns often sell outside of these hours.

“South Africans are sold not making enough noise about the way alcohol is sold in this country,” she told Health-e News.

No ID, no problem

These outlets may also be selling to minors.

In the farming community of Makwassie, North West cashiers at Dikgomo’s Tavern say they are just following orders when they sell to underage children.

“I just follow the owner’s instructions of selling the stuff to everyone,” said cashier Stompie Seiphetlho. “When the police accuse me, I send them to the owner to explain.”

“The police always tell the owner about (taking) legal action, but he doesn’t want to understand,” Seiphetlho said.

Moeketsi Koaho is the principal of the local Leruntse Lesedi Secondary School. Koaho says that use alcohol and drugs among learners is a problem and that it shows in scholastics.

“Learners do not want to attend school regularly and that as a negative impact on our (matric) pass rate,” said Koaho, adding that he believes substance abuse among learners fuels petty crime. – Health-e News.

Additional reporting by Kagisho Modise

An edited version of this story was first published in the 22 December edition of the Pretoria News.

About the author

Sibongile Nkosi

Sibongile Nkosi is a journalist and manages Health-e News' OurHealth Citizen Journalism project. Follow her on Twitter @Sbo_Rose

About the author

Kagisho Modise

Kagisho Modise is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from the North West's Dr. Kenneth Kaunda Health District.