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Taverns, clubs and pubs have become one true church of this land

Police forensic investigators outside the tavern in the Eastern Cape where 17 underage children were found dead. Picture: Bheki Radebe / African News Agency / ANA

Police forensic investigators outside the tavern in the Eastern Cape where 17 underage children were found dead. Picture: Bheki Radebe / African News Agency / ANA

Published Jul 3, 2022

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Khotso K.D Moleko

I wonder why South African adults and preachers acted surprised about the recent deaths of children at a tavern.

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Because, in reality, the tavern, pubs, clubs and shopping malls or entertainment centres have become the one true church of this land.

Yes, that is where the public and its leaders "meet and worship" because that is where their greatest desires and passions are genuinely and honourably expressed.

But which presence is at the tavern, that of God or another one? The issue of rights does not have weight on this issue more than the example that black adults set for black children in general.

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Certainly, close scrutiny of that context will show a group of adults drinking and smoking in ways that make it a community practice. So the problem is the spatial existence of alcohol in the social reality of black people, and the exposure of it to children, as a drinking culture that is both an antidote and symbol of pride more than any other belief.

And the legal and religious justification becomes the Constitution and human power, the real moral guides/gods of this immoral and lawless country. In case we have forgotten, not so long ago and during the lockdowns, we saw long queues outside liquor outlets, where people were stocking up on alcohol or defiantly making up for all the days the outlets were closed.

And they did so before, during, and after school hours, without any concern for the young ones. I always say the only time I ever saw a true rainbow nation is at the hospital, in prison, and in places where alcohol is sold or served.

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So only a state of drunkenness and imprisonment really unites South Africans. Not only that, when the lockdowns prohibited the sale of alcohol, people resorted to all kinds of measures to brew their own, even sacrificing fruits and inflating agents to produce concoctions.

And when the liquor traders took the government to court, I never saw a single newspaper "scandal" on the front page or on TV or a protest. One may even be inclined to think there are more churches than taverns in South African townships and settlements, but the opposite is true.

Now all of these things convince the children of today that the greatest worship is for drunkenness, and the greatest place to gather and be happy is not the church but the tavern, and that the best way to be happy is by having a glass or glasses of wine, a bottle of brandy or whisky and a full case of beer.

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So entrenched is this society in alcohol that a so-called “church” was formed in a tavern, and this was a source of extreme felicity and satisfaction to many. Even black people, who claim to hate Western “Christian indoctrination” and practices, forget all their Africanity when it comes to Western liquor and incorporate it into their traditions.

Even now, the greatest frustration and disgust is not specifically against alcohol and taverns, but truly against the fact that the children are doing what their parents do every weekend.

A really normal and caring society would say: "Let us stop drinking alcohol, close taverns, and proclaim a fast for a year" but that would result in the greatest protest and revolution in history.

Even liquor companies did not waste time making up for lockdown losses through a massive campaign of advertising alcohol on all media platforms as soon as the coast was clear.

And the latest adverts for mass consumption of alcohol, including for very strong spirits like whisky, are now targeting the modern "empowered" woman as a constitutional entitlement and right to her body.

How then can such a society act like it is shocked and concerned? In reality, acting shocked is but a form of being ashamed without admitting there is a problem and that you as adults are the hosts of that problem because what you sow is what you will reap.

Khotso K.D Moleko, Mangaung, Free State.

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