Unscrupulous businessmen are exploiting loopholes in the law to sell highly addictive cheap booze to jobless teens, a Daily Voice investigation reveals.
And desperate teens who have given up hope of a better life are increasingly turning to the cut-price dop to escape their woes.
Some store owners are selling small cartons of wine called Mal Piet – which resembles school-kids’ fruit juices – for as little as R5.
And we interviewed groups of drunk teenagers who were openly drinking papsak – which is illegal to sell – on the streets.
Other people were getting drunk at 10am on cheap flagons of five-litre wine they bought for as little as R26.
Finance, Economic Development and Tourism MEC Alan Winde admits to the Daily Voice that he is shocked by our findings.
And he has vowed to “nail these b*****ds” who are plying our youngsters with cheap booze.
“This is like tik in a bottle because it is so addictive,” Winde tells the Daily Voice.
“This wine is often so cheap it would be more expensive to purchase a bottle of water at the same quantity.”
The Western Cape Government has vowed to clamp down on the sale of these wines – although Winde admits this won’t be easy.
He says many of these lethal liquids do not comply with the Liquor Products Act because it is not specified what goes into the wine and how it is made.
In the meantime, more and more of our unemployed youngsters are getting hooked on these products.
One homeless teen says he drinks papsak just to get through the day.
“It just makes you feel good,” the boy – who calls himself Rasta – tells the Daily Voice.
“I feel invincible after finishing one papsak.
“It doesn’t make you violent just really drunk.”
Our team observed how one of the boys got drunk within minutes of downing wine they fished out of a bin in Wallacedene.
The 18-year-old admits he spends most of his days sobering up.
“Every morning I’m hungover,” he says.
“Then I just go looking for more wine.”
The boys say some local taverns sell “vaal wyn” (left over after grapes are pressed) for as little as R3 known as “halfies” (half litres).
A 15-year-old says on most days he can only afford a halfie.
“If I get nothing then I hustle for a halfie,” he says.
Health experts on Thursday night warned that the drinking of these products often leads to death, injury, unplanned pregnancies, car accidents and foetal alcohol syndrome.
But jobless people like Jan Kleyn, 43, and Jonathan Piet, 32, both from Wallacedene, say unemployment has forced them to “downgrade” to cheaper alcohol.
Jan says he can no longer afford other brands since losing his job.
“I only started buying Cape Best after I lost my job,” he tells the Daily Voice.
“I prefer this brand because it’s cheaper than beer and it makes you feel good.”
Jan admits he and his friend guzzle two five-litre bottles a day if they have the cash.
“We don’t always have money so we do all kinds of jobs to get it,” he adds.
“I must drink every day.
“The wine makes makes me feel good.
“I prefer Cape Best because it is stronger than Simply the Best.
“When we are done drinking we pass out and when we awake we go find more money.”
Another unemployed man, Isaac Julies, 41, claims he has to down 20 litres of “the good stuff” to combat the stress of being unemployed.
“My friends and I buy four bottles every day and if I get money to buy one for myself, then I am good,” he tells the Daily Voice.
“I drink because I stress a lot and all of my problems are making my head spin,” he says.
One bottle store owner, who did not want to be identified, admits he sells up to 900 bottles of fruit ale a month.
“The people around here like Cape Best and Simply the Best because it’s cheap,” he says.
“The people buy this wine here because they don’t have the money.”
But not all shebeens are irresponsible. Shebeen owner Madala Manaleka says he refuses to sell the cheap wine.
“Many people have asked me to sell it here but I don’t want to,” he tells the Daily Voice.
“I have seen how drunk it gets people and it makes them very sick.”
* This article was published in the Daily Voice