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Limiting access to booze is not the solution, SA needs behavioural change

Alex Tabisher writes that limiting access to alcohol is the absolute last thing we should do, and that we should take charge of the real problem, behavioural patterns. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA)

Alex Tabisher writes that limiting access to alcohol is the absolute last thing we should do, and that we should take charge of the real problem, behavioural patterns. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Dec 24, 2020

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by Alex Tabisher

I shall not pontificate nor extemporise. We are all in a situation together and we need a healthy exchange of ideas to try to survive a collective crisis. But there are factors that militate against the spontaneity that makes this time of the year so gloriously abandoned, footloose and fancy-free.

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Central to all of the constraints that prevent our traditional abandon is the pandemic. However, my concern is not the threat of illness itself, but the singular lack of imagination in dealing with this dreaded party pooper.

Limiting access to alcohol is the absolute last thing we should do, especially if we conflate the pandemic with a spike in gender violence, the two having been inextricably conjoined by those who are supposed to guide us because they know better. They don’t.

Alcohol 101 teaches us that the tippler’s greatest fear is non-access to his drink. So keep the bottle stores going, if only because they are one of the geese that provide the much-needed revenue. The booze-hound who isn’t stressed about supply issues will be a manageable, domesticated cat who purrs with pleasure because his favourite catnip is in plentiful supply.

Take charge of the real problem: behavioural patterns. Let the law show its teeth. If I drive a car with a light missing or a smooth tyre, I get ticket. Right there, right then. The same for various moving and other traffic violations. Tell the drinkers they can buy freely, but one misstep and you spend at least a weekend in jail, sans family and (God forbid) sans your bottle.

In a word, we need policing. We need the law to show its muscle, not the bloated, overweight cohorts who could hardly chase down a fleet-footed pickpocket. During the Struggle years and the defiance campaign, the law and the army were mobilised. In America, they’d call out the National Guard. This thing that is upon us affects everyone, from smallest to tallest.

A national mobilisation which could translate into proven cohesive unity could bring us through without closing down beaches, tourist accommodation and even family trips to other places.

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I haven’t exhausted the other areas where “My fellow South Africans” means dubious strategic moves designed to make a failing government look good. Get with the programme, people. We have had children forced into half-schooling, we have had high school parties punished by the guys in red, we have had all sorts of constraints slapped on us because of Covid.

The truth is, the disease proliferates because there are no effective mechanisms in place to change human behaviour. Confiscation of liquor merely redirects the source. Lay down the law. No mask, spot fine or jail time. Public misbehaviour, same thing. We do it for all the other crimes (or should).

So that is my message. Be of good cheer, but do it in a way that, with the advent of the next year, many of us will still be here.

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Be safe. Be blessed.

Merry Christmas.

* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]

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** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus

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