Pretoria – Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has called on South Africa to review its alcohol laws, adding that “people are out of control”.
“This over-access of alcohol we drink from 6 to 6, must come to an end. At some point, people can drink, but when it’s 10pm they must know it’s over whether there is Covid-19 (or not), we must review our laws in terms of alcohol access,” he said yesterday.
The country needed to review its laws on alcohol access. “As a country, we need to review our laws on the access to alcohol. We need to address this as it continues to kill our people on roads and everywhere.”
Mbalula was visiting the families of Tshwane Metro Police Department constables Edward Phaduli, 37, Khathutshelo Mukwevho, 30, and Silas Phala, 43, who died in the line of duty in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The officers were responding to a call for back-up after a suspected drunk driver failed to stop when flagged down by their colleagues.
The driver collided with their car and was also killed in the tragedy, which happened on the N4 between Trans Orange Road and Rebecca Street in Pretoria West.
The metro police trio had forged a friendship beyond work and would often be seen together off duty. They lived in Lotus Gardens and Danville. Phaduli and Mukwevho were “home boys” from Venda.
Department spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said: “They were young and disciplined, a very rare combination in this day and age. They had a long way to go in serving Tshwane and the country at large. It’s a pity their lives were cut short.”
Police Minister Bheki Cele also called on law enforcers to be tough on alcohol consumers. “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. If alcohol was consumed at home as per the government’s directive, the loss of lives could have been avoided.”
Cele has reminded South Africans that a 10pm to 4am curfew was still in place. “While this incident is a great loss to the department, police officers will continue in their numbers to enforce the law and clamp down hard, especially on reckless behaviour brought on by alcohol abuse.”
The government has also called on all South Africans to promote the responsible use of alcohol. “It cannot be acceptable that three Tshwane Metro Police Department officers are among the people who died in alcohol-related vehicle accidents in Gauteng this past weekend.
“Government sends its condolences to the families and loved ones of the three officers who died in such a tragic manner,” said Government Communications director-general Phumla Williams. She said it was tragic that the positive progress the country had made towards containing the spread of Covid-19 was being dampened by reports of alcohol abuse, recklessness and fatal vehicle crashes.
Police have confirmed that 740 suspects, including two police officers, have been arrested for drinking and driving.
A 27-year-old constable was arrested in Sedibeng on Saturday night after driving into an accident scene, injuring a bystander. He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as reckless and negligent driving.
A sergeant was arrested in Norwood, Johannesburg, on Thursday night after his car collided with a metro police vehicle. The 37-year-old has been charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Williams said that while many South Africans were responsible in their use of alcohol, the government and society could not sit idle while lives were being destroyed as a result of alcohol abuse.
“We have noticed that some people do not abide by alert level 2 regulations, which place restrictions on gatherings. We urge law enforcement authorities to play their role in bringing the culprits to book. In the midst of a pandemic, it cannot be acceptable that healthcare workers in our hospitals have to deal with high numbers of cases at trauma units as a result of alcohol.
“Although the government is committed to address societal issues such as alcohol abuse and the carnage on our roads, ultimately, these issues are everybody’s responsibility,” she said.
The government, she said, further appealed to the liquor industry to strengthen current efforts with it to curb the scourge of alcohol abuse.
“Alcohol abuse is also often at the heart of contact crimes, which include murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault resulting in grievous bodily harm, common assault and robbery,” Williams said, adding that some families risk being totally destroyed because of the extent of alcohol abuse.
She said an estimated 70% of domestic violence was associated with alcohol.
“Law enforcement agencies are urged to do their part through visible enforcement, but more importantly, we urge road users, especially drivers, to take extra care and exercise the utmost vigilance on the road”.