Having a president who despises a good tipple takes some getting used to — it appears Jacob Zuma is doing his utmost to become the antithesis of Thabo Mbeki. At least the second democratically elected South African president, enjoyed his whiskey and pipe tobacco, Having just returned from an art exhibition at which alcohol was very much a feature of the fair on display, I turned on my radio to hear the booming voice of the man from Nkandla speaking at a special summit on “eradicating alcohol and drug abuse from society“.
Jacob Zuma is intent on taking our country down the road of alcohol and drug prohibition. The conservative politics of Zuma’s “moral regeneration” programme now ring out in ANC policy. Taverns are to be closed, stricter drinking hours, a clampdown on alcohol advertising, the legal drinking age to be raised from 18 to 21,
Zuma in his quintessential paternalism can see nothing wrong in disenfranchising a sizable portion of South Africa’s youth voters from the many rights guaranteed by our constitution, which yes, extend to making decisions about what one wishes to put inside ones body. When the constitutional assembly drafted the constitution there were quite a few comrades with their Umqombothi, traditional African beer in hand.
However some of the brothers have been misbehaving and now insist on taking whoonga, a lethal concoction of anything including ARVs and Heroin. Zuma was at pains to point out the different kinds of ingredients involved and the many hazards. Instead of advocating harm reduction, ANC policy appears to be the criminalisation of all concerned. Promising stiffer fines, longer sentences and increased penalties that may include life imprisonment makes for riveting election rhetoric but it also plays into the hands of the conservative “moral majority”, the religious right xenophobes, the old politics of baaskap, church and volk state.
That it took barely 15 years for ANC policy to resemble the old Nationalist party must be seen as a minor tragedy. Both the ANC and IFP sent their condolences this week in the wake of white separatist leader of Oranje, Carel Boshoff’s death. They may soon be wishing that they had not.