Bheki Cele vs alcohol: 10 times the police minister spoke against booze

23 December 2020 - 14:00
Police minister Bheki Cele had quite a lot to say about alcohol.
Police minister Bheki Cele had quite a lot to say about alcohol.
Image: HALDEN KROG.

Police minister Bheki Cele's distaste for alcohol consumption and distribution during the height of lockdown sure set Mzansi abuzz this year.

From the onset, after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a 21-day lockdown from March 26 to curb the spread of Covid-19, Cele made his stance known.

Here is what he had to say about alcohol:

Welcoming liquor ban 

In March, six days before the country went into lockdown, Cele welcomed the liquor ban, saying it would reduce crimes such as murder and rape.

At the time, Cele said statistics revealed many crimes were committed by drunk people during the early hours on weekends.

“Also we pick up a lot of dead bodies around three in the morning coming from shebeens, so if we shut down at 6pm, it will have a positive affect,” he said. “There is a good relationship between crime and coronavirus. You must remember alcohol is causing a lot of crime.”

Alcohol lawbreakers are against SA

In the same month, just a day after lockdown commenced, 55 people were arrested for breaking lockdown laws.

According to Cele, the majority of those who were arrested were from Gauteng and they were “against SA”. 

“These people are people that don’t have goodwill — people that are doing exactly what they were told not to do. Some of them were opening their street bashes, some of them were drinking, taking their bush chairs, sitting under the trees and undermining the law,” he said.

Drink water to quench the thirst 

In April, while many businesses and citizens were begging for the return of liquor sales, Cele said water was the remedy to quench the thirst.

He said he hoped that one day there would be no liquor in SA.

“Stop making this request for bottle stores to be opened for three hours. There are no bottle stores that will be opened here,” said Cele. “Drink, drink a lot ... of water.”

Alcohol putting strain on health system 

In June, Cele slammed the government's decision to lift the liquor ban, saying it was putting a strain on the health system and should not have been permitted.

“Yes, it cannot be banned forever — but for now we should have not opened sales,” said Cele. “Alcohol revenue is R1.6bn, but it costs the government R38bn to provide medical services for alcohol cases, so that revenue does not help us.”

Cele said booze was a “curse” and confirmed that he was against the lifting of restrictions on the sale of alcohol.

No drinking at you neighbour's house

In July, Cele issued a stern warning about public drinking and gatherings during a second liquor ban.

Speaking during a justice, crime prevention and security cluster briefing, Cele said alcohol was allowed to be consumed in private but could not be transported or consumed in public places.

“You cannot take your alcohol next door and drink there. Cele can’t go to Mthembu. Cele must drink by Cele and Mthembu by Mthembu.

"Once you come together that’s a gathering. As you have said, if you drink in the car on the road, that’s public. If you really want to drink in a car, park it in the garage. You can drink there.”

Alcohol contributes to crime

In August, Cele once again said alcohol was a major factor contributing to crime in SA.

He said during the ban on the sale of alcohol under the lockdown, there had been a noticeable drop in contact crimes.

“It is important to acknowledge that the unavailability of alcohol had a role to play. This is evident in the decrease in the numbers of contact crimes, which plummeted by 37.4%. There were 53,891 cases of murder, attempted murder, assault, common robbery and common assault reported compared to the same period in the previous year,” he said.

Alcohol the cause of deaths 

In the same month, after the death of a Tshwane metro police officers in a collision involving a suspected drunk driver, Cele said had the driver consumed alcohol at home, as per the government’s directive, the loss of lives could have been avoided.

“The lives of these young officers were cut short by a man who chose to drink and act irresponsibly.

“While the alcohol ban has been lifted under lockdown level 2, it still remains the responsibility of those who consume alcohol to do so without putting themselves and those around them in danger,” said Cele.

Disgusted by liquor outlet owners

In September, he said he was disgusted by the blatant disregard of lockdown rules by some liquor outlet owners in the name of profit. This came after Cele came across several shebeens and taverns operating in Gauteng way past the stipulated 10pm curfew under lockdown level 2.

“More disturbing was the practice of some liquor outlets of squeezing patrons inside their venues with shut windows and doors. This is done to look as if the business is closed for the night. Meanwhile, drinking and socialising in the confined space is ongoing until the early hours of the morning,” said Cele.

No drinking while doing the 'Jerusalema' dance challenge

On Heritage Day, while many hoped to be doing the Jerusalema dance challenge with a beverage in hand, Cele said no.

Cele issued a stern warning to licensed premises, saying no off-site sales of alcohol would be permitted on the day.

“Police will continue to enforce the curfew, which is in force from midnight until 4am. The sale of liquor is permitted from 9am to 5pm during the week. No alcohol can be sold for off-site consumption at the weekend and on public holidays,” he said.

Cele slams 'alcohol apologists'

In October, Cele slammed claims that he was “obsessed” with alcohol-related offences, saying they are from “alcohol apologists”. 

Speaking on 702, Cele said claims that he was not doing enough to curb gender-based violence (GBV) and human trafficking were not true.

“I am always amazed by these alcohol apologists,” he said. “Alcohol is one of the main generators of violence, murder, abuse of women and children and GBV. It is not true that we are not dealing with other cases.”

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