Illicit trade thrives as South Africa bans alcohol and tobacco sales



Joseph Cotterill | Financial Times

As the taverns and drinking spots filled up with revellers in Xhora Mouth, deep in South Africa’s rural Eastern Cape, Lynne Wilkinson worried that the crowds celebrating Christmas would bring a new wave of coronavirus infection to an isolated region with few hospitals and clinics. Bulungula Incubator, a charity where Wilkinson is acting director, had worked with villagers to manage the risk of big indoor gatherings. But tavern patrons at holiday time were much harder to convince. That was until President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a ban on all alcohol sales as the second wave of the pandemic rolled in. It was the third of four such bans in South Africa in the past year, all aimed at clearing hospital beds of wounded drunks to make coronavirus treatment easier — as well as to limit incentives for big gatherings.

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