The community of Botshabelo in the Free State province has lashed out at greedy alcohol sellers to respect the current COVID-19-related curfew and work with police to ensure that alcohol consumers get home early. This as many taverns still appear to close only at 2am, while others seem to sell alcohol throughout the night, adding to the scourge of fighting and violence.

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent announcement to lift the ban on alcohol sales, police in the Free State have reported a sharp increase in cases of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm. As these figures are higher compared to the first two weeks of the liquor ban, authorities blame the rise on alcohol abuse.

Police spokesperson for the Selosesha cluster Warrant Officer S Xaba told Health e-News that a man was stabbed in Botshabelo on Sunday night outside a tavern, and SAPS members could not take a statement from him as he was found unconscious.

“We, however, found that his stabbing may be retaliation by another gang, following a mob stoning not far from where the stabbing incident happened,” he said.

Body found near drinking hole

Meanwhile, officers at Bloemfontein’s Batho police station have launched an inquest into the murder of a man whose lifeless body was found on Sunday night, also not far from a venue that sells alcohol.

Health workers at the Botshabelo Hospital confirmed that since the alcohol ban was lifted, they are having to work hard in the casualty ward, as when they are not treating patients with stab wounds, they are dealing with injuries from car accidents.

Police have confirmed that they are investigating two separate car accidents. Xaba said both accidents happened in Botshabelo, east of the city.

“In the first accident, two cars collided at an intersection in Section B East of the Township, where the driver of one of the vehicles ran away after the accident. We have found him and he will be subjected to the legal procedures,” he said.

“In the second accident, a sedan overturned onto its roof on the main road and it is understood that all the people in the car survived without harm.”

Alcohol: Violence and accidents on the up

Alcohol abuse has been blamed for violence and accidents in the country and although many supported government’s ban on alcohol sales, some believe the ban has led to a rise of illegal selling spots. Alcohol trader Thabo Magale said it was evident that law enforcement authorities were unable to enforce the country’s laws.

“We have requested law enforcement agencies to help us to close up venues when curfew starts, but our police are not even patrolling to enforce curfew. This leads some of us to prolong the sales of alcohol as trading hours are not monitored. We often find that people drink too much and some then get involved in unnecessary fights, while others drive under the influence,” he said.

Health e-news can confirm that in the last 24 hours, eight people were admitted with serious injuries from assaults and accidents at Botshabelo Hospital. Free State health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi said: “Our department was the only one on a national level that was against the lifting of the alcohol ban because we noted the behaviours caused by alcohol. Our people are called upon to drink responsibly and adhere to curfew times,” he said. – Health-e News