Multitudes gather in Soweto as liquor stores reopen
Soweto residents came out in their numbers on Monday to purchase alcohol as the lockdown ban on alcohol came to an end.
There was congestion in parts of Soweto as alcohol sales were permitted again after a lengthy ban due to the coronavirus.
Hundreds of people queued at the Protea Gardens Liquor City and hundreds more queued at Midway Liquor Wholesalers just across the road. Thuli Dladla said she could not imagine her birthday without her favourite drinks.
“Every time when it’s my birthday I buy alcohol to celebrate. I nearly missed out because of lockdown but my favourite drinks came back just in time for my birthday.”
Dladla said she turned 33 on the day and could no longer function normally without her favourite tipples.
Aubrey Mkanama, 62, said authorities had no right to tell senior citizens like himself why and when to drink.
“It made no sense to me. The cigarette ban too. People are buying cigarettes on the black market,” said Mkanama.
Midway Liquor Wholesalers was a hive of activity on Monday. So busy was the place that traffic headed for the Avalon Cemetery and Midway Train Station came to a standstill.
Many people who bought their alcohol could not wait to get home. Some opened their beers straight after purchasing and started drinking in the parking lot.
There were no officers in sight to enforce social distancing at Midway Liquor Wholesalers. However, management at nearby Liquor City hired private security to ensure that customers adhered to social distancing and other lockdown regulations. And three private security personnel were on duty on Monday at the Protea Gardens store.
Physical distancing was still a challenge at Liquor City despite the security. Compliance was only monitored when customers came close to the entrance. Further up the queue, people huddled together.
Some of those who had arrived early in the morning returned to buy more drinks – only this time they were not as sober.
The first police car to show up was a Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) van at 9.27am, and it wasn’t until 11.00am that a second, SAPS, van showed up. It drove slowly past the queues and then sped away.
When asked about the deployment of JMPD members at some places that sell alcohol, JMPD spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said: “Yes, JMPD is monitoring all areas, specifically the busy areas where there are queues, so that physical distancing is maintained.”
On Tuesday there were still many people purchasing alcohol and the situation at the Midway Liquor Wholesalers was again chaotic. Many customers sat in their cars as they waited for traffic into the liquor store to ease.
Meanwhile, the JMPD on Monday said that some vehicle testing licence stations in Johannesburg were opening on 1 June while others would remain closed.
“Langlaagte Testing Station will not be open tomorrow, due to preparation in getting it Covid-19 compliant. Midrand Testing Station, Florida Station and Randburg will also still be closed.” DM