Johannesburg Government To “Take Back” The City From “Illegal Alcohol Outlets”?


In an announcement on Facebook, the Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, wrote that “It is essential that we bring back the rule of law in our City and take it back from the criminal elements such as landlords who neglect paying municipal bills, criminals that hijack buildings and those who breakdown communities by running illegal alcohol outlet.” (my emphasis)

This was part of Mashaba’s announcement of “Operation Buya Mthetho“. The operation, a joint effort “between all key City departments and entities”, is intended “to ensure city by-law[s] are adhered to by all within the City and that the rule of law becomes the order of the day”.

This is the latest intervention in an apparent crackdown by the Democratic Alliance and its governments on freedom of choice in lifestyle. The first intervention is the new alcohol policy taking root in the Western Cape. That policy, among other things, intends to raise taxes to make alcohol more expensive, restrict trading hours, create monopolistic conditions by reducing the density of outlets in particular areas, and to force citizens to spy on one another on behalf of government.

Were the Democratic Alliance, and more particularly Herman Mashaba, dedicated to the Rule of Law (the real Rule of Law, not the thing Mashaba keeps mentioning in his press releases) and free enterprise, they would abolish liquor licensing and reduce or eliminate red tape, to the extent possible at the local and provincial levels, and allow South Africans freedom to trade. It is not the role of government to paternalistically dictate to a free people how they are and are not allowed to live their lives and what lifestyles they should choose.

Liberty and rights are for when things are tough, not for when things are easy. The communities that are being harmed by alcoholism must deal with the problem themselves, voluntarily and peacefully, and not call in the guns of the State unless anyone’s liberty or property is under threat. Freedom is meaningless otherwise.

Whatever “studies” that show that “alcohol‚ drugs‚ and firearms” are part of South Africa’s crime problem are flawed, because their premises are flawed.

There is nothing inherent in alcohol, drugs, or firearms that encourages lawlessness. According to the World Health Organisation, South Africa ranked 30th internationally in alcohol consumption in 2015. Countries like Belarus, South Korea, and Australia far outrank South Africa, yet have far, far lower rates of crime. South Africa’s rates of drug addiction are also not something to write home about in relative terms. That the availability of firearms is a potential cause of crime shouldn’t even be dignified with a response. Firearm ownership is heavily regulated in South Africa. In the United States, where firearms are almost omnipresently available, crime rates are far lower than in South Africa.

Clearly, the source of our crime problem lies elsewhere.

I believe it can more readily be attributed to lackluster and incompetent law enforcement, a failing prosecution system, and a government (and, unfortunately, society) that heavily encourages a culture of rent-seeking.

Even if these things are not the cause of crime, would it not make sense for government to fix itself before it starts violating the freedom of South Africans? Why is the first resort to repeal freedom to trade and freedom of choice, rather than appointing skilled police officers and experienced prosecutors? Moreover, if unemployment is a cause of crime, why violate freedoms rather than repealing the very laws that keep our people out of jobs?

Our political leaders do not care about freedom, especially those who claimed that they apparently do. They are far more interested in finding the solution to our troubles in more government and more restriction, rather than in less government and more freedom. They trust only in themselves and their power, and have no interest in empowering the people to solve their own problems.

South Africa’s salvation does not lie with these ‘leaders’, but with ourselves.