OPINION: The battle of the booze

Phiri Cawe.

When I was a little boy, my parents would threaten to turn their backs on me if I drank alcohol – and even more scary, I would not see heaven.

Confusion filled me for years for I had seen seniors and elderly men and women punch drunk on the streets. I desperately wanted to have a taste of umqombothi or beer, but I was scared to be without parents.

Despite the initial trauma, because of them my need for alcohol slowly died down. But it was not the same with my peers. During our teens, they were free to have a sip or two.

This became more easy for them when we reached matric.

After every exam there was a
get-together, kukhutshwa iphepha (training out exam stress and trauma). Slowly those binging get-togethers snowballed and today many of those who attended are drunkards.

I turned to sport to keep me away from such trouble.

Even though my village struggles economically, they are culturally rich.When I came to Cape Town, it was booze that was most loved. Based on the way students drank, you’d swear it was part of their syllabus.

SRC members used their stipends to quench their thirst.

Those who lived on campus, loved to hang out in a nearby Belhar township, or the informal settlement just behind UWC. There was a popular spot called the Blue House. It was the headquarters of students from as far as UCT and Stellenbosch.

The amazing thing about Cape Town is that, at the entrance of just about every township is a big alcohol advertising billboard.

I thought to myself, booze has influence. It has won many of my people. Taverns and bars had burst into learning institutions. With bars and taverns mushrooming faster, havoc began. When school children as young as 14 died in a booze place in Makhaza, it was on everybody’s lips. We shouted and condemned the owner but parents got off scot-free.

It was not long after that revellers were randomly shot at in Emaplangeni in Ilitha Park. We asked about the owner’s legality and operating licence, forgetting that we are part of that craziness.

Then there was another horrible incident in Marikana. More than 12 people were brutally murdered in a tavern. We again cried foul but we did nothing.

And when the upset died down, no one was interested in those cases.

We lived on as usual and opened more places to binge drink at.

Fast forward to 2019, when Solly’s Place turned into a shooting range one morning. On the same day, another tavern in Site B turned into Gaza.

Lives were lost in all these entertainment places. Recently people were killed like flies at Thandie’s Place in Philippi East.

When I related these happenings to my friend in Gauteng, she said this is the apocalypse, whatever that means. But many hooligans are using taverns to kill young people and their enemies. It is us who are dying in our areas by some of our own. So the question is: who must intervene if we don’t?

We hate police in our areas when they try to be visible and patrol. We stone their cars and kill them. Must we now blame them when they do not intervene? Maybe yes. But we need to look at ourselves first.

After each such shooting, I taste beer to ascertain if there has been a change.

But there is none.

Why would we allow ourselves to die in taverns and shebeens when we can drink at home after hours?

Let us be responsible for our kids and generations to come. The recent killings in shebeens and taverns left me in pain. So, I’m thankful to those who persuaded me never to drink. Let’s lead ourselves instead of crying for leaders.

Booze has a great influence but we can fight it. All we need is to be responsible enough. I believe we could have avoided the death of young boys and girls in a shebeen in Makhaza. Parents could have been more hands-on with their children.

We could have done better with the deaths in Marikana, Philippi East and elsewhere. Let us stop the killings in booze establishments.