Alcohol ban has taken us back to apartheid days, says shebeen owner

Homemade brews find a market as prices rocket for liquor sold illegally

19 May 2020 - 11:26 By Mpumi Kiva
People are taking to homemade alcohol as a bottle of Smirnoff vodka is now going for R450 and beer prices have doubled and even trebled during the lockdown.
People are taking to homemade alcohol as a bottle of Smirnoff vodka is now going for R450 and beer prices have doubled and even trebled during the lockdown.
Image: Mpumi Kiva/GroundUp

With the sale of alcohol banned for more than seven weeks, the illegal booze trade has mushroomed and prices have rocketed.

People who used to frequent shebeens in the southern Cape said syndicates have stepped in and are charging exorbitant prices for conventional brands of alcohol. In response, many have started to brew their own liquor at home, mostly using pineapples and apples.

On the coast, many people are now making a living from it, brewing 25-litre buckets of iqhilika in places such as Nekkies in Knysna, Nonqaba in Mossel Bay, Nokuthula in Plettenberg Bay, and Lawaaikamp and Thembalethu near George.

The home-brewed alcohol sells for about R10 a litre or R20 for a 2.5-litre bottle. In contrast, Zola Xhinwa, of Nokuthula, said a bottle of Smirnoff vodka is now going for R450 and beer prices have doubled, even trebled.

“I have resorted to drinking homemade booze because it’s  affordable,” he said.

Pineapple alcohol is made with sliced pineapple, lukewarm water, brown bread, oats, ginger, yeast and sugar. Apple beer is a concoction of teabags, sugar, yeast and brown bread. The ingredients are left to ferment overnight.

A popular drinking spot in Nonqaba that dates back to the 1950s has become known for its cleanliness and the pleasant taste of its pineapple brew.

“Lockdown has actually taken us back to the dark days [of apartheid] when people made alcohol at home and sold to community members,” said the owner [name withheld].

“I make sure I don’t get in close contact with my customers. I wear gloves and a mask and sell through the security door.

“People don’t sit here. They just buy and go to drink in their homes,” she said.

A seller in Nekkies said at first she brewed only for her family, but now everyone in the area wants her booze.

“People don’t have money to buy expensive back-door alcohol. We just pray the government suspends the lockdown so people can return to their favourite booze.”

Thembalethu police spokesperson Capt Dumile Gwavu said selling and brewing alcohol during the lockdown is a criminal offence.

 


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