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SA’s laws aren’t lacking — enforcement is

President Cyril Ramaphosa at the mass funeral for those who died in the Enyobeni tragedy in East London.
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the mass funeral for those who died in the Enyobeni tragedy in East London.
Image: ALAN EASON

In the wake of the Enyobeni Tavern deaths, President Cyril Ramaphosa last week joined calls for the legal drinking age to be raised from 18 to 21.

He is delusional. There is nothing wrong with the current legal age of drinking.

The president and the government he leads know this.

Ramaphosa also knows that the deaths of the 21 youths at the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London, has nothing to do with the legal age at which anyone can buy alcohol.

Those children died because there is no enforcement of the laws, in this case the National Liquor Act, which stipulates that no-one may supply liquor to minors.

Ramaphosa and his ministers may shout until they are blue in the face, but the reality is that virtually nowhere in SA’s townships, informal settlements and villages are shebeens, taverns, bottle stores ever monitored, or owners arrested, for selling booze to people under the age of 18.

Government also knows the problem here is not ignorance of the law.

The police know the National Liquor Act backwards. So do businesspeople such as the owner of the Enyobeni Tavern.

Send a junior reporter to East London on any day and get them to speak to a few residents around the Enyobeni Tavern. Those residents will tell you that police turn up regularly, that they allegedly receive bribes to look the other way and that residents’ pleas for enforcement fall on deaf ears.

Those children died because of lawlessness and corruption. They died because we don’t love them enough to do the things that are necessary to secure their lives — enforce the laws we have, punish those who break them and end police corruption.

As I write this, news is coming in of the murder of at least 14 people at a tavern in Soweto, Gauteng.

Another six people were murdered in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.

Investigations are under way, but once again we must be wary of clutching at populist answers to problems that can be solved quite easily.

For example, the country is awash with illegal guns, many stolen at police stations with the connivance of corrupt police. Calling for the return of the death penalty will not make that reality go away.

The tragic Enyobeni incident is sadly the reality of every black township in SA. I have written about this on numerous occasion before and quite frankly it is sickening just how government never does anything about it.

In the village where I grew up in Hammanskraal, booze is openly sold to children at many taverns. Worse, drugs such as nyaope are traded openly at known drug dens.

Residents have on many occasions reported this to the police and nothing ever happens.

In one section of the village residents have taken the law into their hands, walking the streets with sjamboks and knobkieries at night to try bring some order.

Inevitably, these initiatives often become gangs themselves as people are beaten up for no reason other than walking home from a night vigil or some other commitment.

We do not have a problem with the laws of SA. We have a problem with enforcement of the laws.

When Ramaphosa and his ministers talk about changing the laws, it illustrates just how out of touch with the reality of ordinary South Africans they are.

That is why we have this rash of ill-informed proposals. Take Aaron Motsoaledi, a good man who has fallen into the fallacy of xenophobic immigration lawmaking.

The reality of SA is that its borders are porous and many of its immigration officials are corrupt.

The border fence between SA and Zimbabwe is still a joke. Criminals are being escorted across borders by police and home affairs officials.

The man who facilitated the landing of the Gupta plane at Waterkloof Air Base is rewarded with a senior diplomatic post.

Instead of fixing these very obvious failings, Motsoaledi is walking around talking about kicking out Zimbabweans who are here legitimately.

That gets him support from Dudula movement types, but this is reactionary, neo-con nonsense.

It is not a solution. It is a cynical grab for votes. It shows Motsoaledi’s poor leadership.

Ramaphosa and his cabinet need to realise that they are what is called “the executive”. Their job is to execute, to achieve things.

They should roll up their sleeves and make things happen: The trains must run, the police must enforce laws and arrest criminals, Eskom must supply electricity.

They must do their jobs. No amount of changing laws will help if the real work is not done.

Here is a simple question. It is a full two weeks since the Enyobeni kids died. Where is the forensic report about how they died? The forensic labs don’t work.

When will the ballistics reports from the Soweto and Pietermaritzburg shootings be available? In months, if ever.

But sure, go ahead and change the laws.

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