David Moseley

You’re no longer free in SA

2012-04-24 10:50

David Moseley

I’m intrigued by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s crusade against alcohol advertising. For those not in the know, the good doctor has hinted that the Department of Health is keen to ban booze ads outright. Naturally, they point to the high levels of alcohol abuse in South Africa, and subsequent consequences of such (domestic violence, sex, babies, death, all that usual stuff that life gives us), as the reasons behind their vision of modern prohibition.

I’ve read before how the Minister was so aghast by the fatties in Parliament that he quit smoking and went on a health kick of note. So maybe this quest to cripple the liquour industry is part of his personal transformation. But I doubt it. To me it sounds far more sinister.

Think about it. As has been pointed out by numerous experts, banning booze ads will do nothing but cost people their jobs and livelihoods. The Health Minister must know this. He’s not a stupid man. Yes, alcohol abuse is a massive problem - in any country, not just here - and leads to all kinds of nastiness. But a 40-foot billboard on the side of a building, promoting an ice-cold Castle Draught does not create wife-beaters and murderers.

Visuals of giddy immigrant beer drinkers on a rooftop in New York, enjoying a beer that reminds them of home, do not lead to deviant children who’d rather stab each other in the head over a game of cards instead of finishing high school. Likewise, some tools walking through the desert, telling me that a Hunter’s Dry will refresh my parched and dehydrated soul more than a glass of cool water will not encourage me to run into the bedroom and engage in risqué sexual acts that could result in an unwanted pregnancy.

We’re watching you

Quite simply, and I don’t care what any experts, lentil soup drinking hippies, or terrified desperate housewife mothers tell me, the booze ads do no create violence, over-population or snotty street kids asking me for R10 at the traffic light.

If ads were that effective, we’d be a nation of cancer ridden smokers, all one breath away from our last gasp. Everyone remembers the Benson & Hedges Night Series, right? It was domestic cricket at its best. Did it kill everyone who attended, did it turn us all into serial smokers, lusting after a cricket ball, fag in hand? Hardly.

For sure, I feel for my cousins in the advertising industry. How will they afford their trendy trilbies, skinny jeans and iPad apps if the alcohol industry isn’t allowed to advertise? Similarly, I feel for the beer, wine and spirit companies. They’re peddling a product, something that some people enjoy responsibly, some loathe and that others can’t quite handle. Why should they be blamed for society’s inability to control itself? Anyone who says the booze companies are to blame should look in the mirror. Because they’re the kind of people who always take the easy way out. Blame someone else for the problems, now there’s no problem.

But back to the Minister of Health’s crusade. Reports suggest that Department of Health has consulted no one but itself on the matter of placing a blanket ban. You know what that says to me? It’s all a test. They’re trying to see how far they can push the people of South Africa before the people push back. If we all give in, then what?

First they take away our beloved beer ads – no more hulking black chaps enjoying a Black Label after constructing a football field. A sad day indeed – then they take away our option to buy the beer. Then they tell you can’t drive to work without paying five times en route. Then the media can’t tell you why JZ’s obese nephew is auctioning off his goods.

Then they tell you what internet sites you can and can’t log on to. Then they tell you how many children you’re allowed to have. Before you know it, you’re not allowed to buy carrots on a Monday, but only a Tuesday. Then they tell you where you can get treated for medical ailments. Then Provinces start changing names, and cities, and more streets. And so it goes.

It’s a stretch. But not a long one on this continent.

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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