Eastern Cape pushes for alcohol ban as crime, trauma cases spike

MEC for Health Sindiswa Gomba and Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize after a meeting in Port Elizabeth in April.
MEC for Health Sindiswa Gomba and Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize after a meeting in Port Elizabeth in April.
Photo by Mkhuseli Sizani
  • A report by the Eastern Cape coronavirus command council shows a significant spike in serious violent crime since 1 June. 
  • 3 145 violent criminal cases reported at the province's 197 police stations since the move to Level 3 lockdown.
  • Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba reported that the province's trauma units have been stretched by patients with alcohol-related injuries.

In the space of seven days, more than 3 000 violent criminal cases were opened at the Eastern Cape's 197 police stations, with the province's Health MEC saying trauma units are under increased pressure due to alcohol-related injuries since the move to Level 3.

The Eastern Cape provincial coronavirus command council revealed in a report on Monday that there has been a significant spike in serious, violent crimes since the country moved to Level 3 lockdown on 1 June, which allowed for the sale of liquor.

This, as Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane announced that he would be petitioning the national government to reinstate the alcohol ban in his province to contain the spread of Covid-19.

A total of 3 145 cases were reported in the province since June. Among the crimes are:

- 77 reported rape cases;

- 94 murders;

- 354 assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm; and

- 25 culpable homicide cases.

There were also 354 cases of attempted murder opened at the province's 197 police stations. The report noted that the crimes coincided with the opening of the liquor trade.

"The total number of cases reported during the same period is 3 145 but the above is of a serious nature [and] can be directly or indirectly linked to the abuse of liquor," the province's report revealed.

There were also 51 drunk driving cases opened; 25 cases of driving under the influence where someone was injured, while there were 26 cases where no one was hurt during the accidents.

Surge in trauma cases

On Monday Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba reported a surge in a number trauma cases at the province's 91 hospitals and more than 700 clinics, saying this was due to alcohol-related accidents.

"Unfortunately, with the sale of alcohol allowed again, we have seen a surge in the number of trauma cases at our hospitals. At Frere Hospital alone there were 67 trauma cases over the weekend. These are all related to the sale of alcohol. It is the same in all other facilities as well.

READ | Booze ban: Mabuyane to push for alcohol ban in the Eastern Cape

"This is why I want to make a plea to the people of the Eastern Cape to drink responsibly. When they over-indulge, that has been proven to result in car accidents, stabbings, and general violence which adds more pressure to our already over-stretched doctors and nurses," said Gomba.

"We all need to be responsible and not abuse alcohol or else our healthcare system might be overwhelmed because of the number of trauma cases and Covid-19."

'Enforce the law instead'

The province's liquor licensing authority - the Eastern Cape Liqour Board - has threatened to clamp down on irresponsible drinkers and non-complying traders following the spike in crime.

The Eastern Cape Black Business Forum has slammed the proposed call for another ban of alcohol and urged law enforcers to crack down on those who drink and misbehave instead.

On Tuesday, the forum's secretary, Luthando Bara said: "Does alcohol contribute to the spread of the virus? No. Does it cause the body to weaken its ability to deal with the virus? No. Which leaves us with only one variable. Alcohol causes people to congregate. If law enforcement agencies are doing their job of ensuring that people do not congregate but consume alcohol at home, then alcohol cannot be said to be a contributing factor."

"It is way too late in any case to stop alcohol usage, the horse has bolted. Even the suggestion that the province intends to lobby for a ban of the sale of alcohol, panic buying, overstocking and bootlegging will follow and will not address the main issue without proper policing and enforcement."

He said the BBF's view is that the government must do what it has to do which is to strengthen both communication - to consume at home and enforcement - and to not congregate or drink and drive.

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