When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an extension to the 21-day lockdown period (which will now run until the end of April), many South Africans applauded the decision.
Sure, there was immediately some angry ranting on Facebook (there always is), but as epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim covered last night, we are buying our country time to deal with the inevitable spike in coronavirus cases down the line.
Another immediate reaction was people crunching the numbers regarding their booze and cigarette supply, and whether or not those would now last the additional 14 days.
Even Seth has had his rationing equations upended, but given that he’s spending lockdown at a cabin in the Klein Karoo, he’s still sitting pretty.
As things stand, alcohol and cigarette sales are still prohibited, and police chief and wannabe gangster Bheki Cele will take some convincing that any change on that front should take place.
Thankfully, the decision is not his alone to make, and reports suggest that the national command council, chaired by President Ramaphosa, will soon discuss industry proposals to ease some of the lockdown restrictions.
Until that happens, South Africans are finding creative (and illegal) ways to get around running out of their guilty pleasures.
Bootlegging has hit the suburbs as South Africans turn to technology, WhatsApp groups and bartering to keep themselves supplied with their favourite tipple while liquor stores are closed for the lockdown…
Much of the scouting for booze and cigarettes takes place through WhatsApp groups under hashtags such as #ImAskingForSomeoneElse or #HelpingAFriendInNeed.
A west rand community WhatsApp group in Gauteng offers Graça wine, which usually costs R50, for R300 a bottle, and a Glenfiddich 18-year-old scotch, which usually costs R1,300, for R1,800.
WhatsApp groups in Pretoria and Durban carry similarly inflated listings, with beer selling for up to R700 a case.
If you’re buying Graça for R300 a bottle, you need to take a few deep breaths and reassess your decision-making processes.
A woman in Rondebosch says she stocked up on Peter Stuyvesant Blue cigarettes (Stuyvie Blue to smokers), and is now trading three packs for a good bottle of red wine.
I’d say she could drop that down to two packs, because smokers are starting to get really antsy amidst their withdrawal symptoms. I should know, as I forgot to buy pre-lockdown and have finished my stash of seven loosies in a box I found above the microwave.
Times are tough.
Also, drone deliveries:
A Pretoria man who is putting his drone to use for alcohol drops said breaking the law comes with risk, but he has to earn a living.
Charging R500 a delivery, he said he has made R9,000 since the lockdown started. “If I get busted I’m in deep trouble and will not only get arrested but lose my drone licence.”
He said his relationship with customers was based on trust. “I vet them very carefully. The customer, the supplier and I know the risks. Before a trade is done they hand over all their credit card details to me. That’s my insurance.
“If my drone is seized by the authorities while I’m doing a delivery for them, they cover the full replacement cost plus my bail.” His drone has a 7km range.
The man’s customers declined to comment, with one woman saying: “It’s got nothing to do with you or anyone else about how my husband and I get our wine.”
R200 (or approximately 8 cigarettes – I’m getting desperate) says that woman also constantly posts on Facebook about how people in the townships aren’t abiding by the lockdown laws.
I think it’s becoming clear that restrictions on alcohol and tobacco sales will need to be adjusted, lest the government risk a full revolt, and it seems only fair given the public buy-in with regards the lockdown extension.
For now, at least, those who stocked up on tipple and smokes are sitting pretty, and hold all the cards at the bartering table.
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