A couple who made up a batch of home-brew beer to get round South Africa’s alcohol-purchase ban during lockdown died in agony last weekend after drinking one bottle of the ale each.
Estate agent Tony Hilliar, 54, and his fiancée Alida Fouche, 42, had run out of their own supplies of alcohol and decided to make their own brew.
It is believed both collapsed at their home in Port Nolloth in Northern Cape province after sampling the homebrew, and that Tony made a desperate call for help.
When emergency services arrived, Alida had already passed away, while Tony was suffering acute stomach pain.
He was rushed to hospital but unfortunately died a few days later. Police investigators sent two empty bottles of the couple’s home brew beer for forensic testing to check for alcohol poisoning.
The rest of the batch which had not been drunk was also seized and taken away for laboratory testing.
Close friend Tommy Cockcroft, 52, said: “They both liked a drink at the end of the day which is typically South African but thanks to this poorly thought out government ban there is no alcohol.
“Everyone is making their own beer so Tony did as well but it seems something went terribly wrong with the brew and that they both collapsed and died very senseless deaths.
“This alcohol ban is just beyond total belief and there is no sense whatsoever in it and the sooner people are treated like grown ups the better,” he said.
The South African government has explained that the alcohol ban has freed up many beds in hospitals which would usually be used by victims of alcohol abuse (with alcohol abuse often leading to accidents or physical abuse).
Pastor Bertus de Jager, who knew the couple well, said: “They were very much in love and you would always see them around the town or on the beach hand in hand together.
“They were lovely people and had been together about six years, and were engaged to be married two years ago. This is so so tragic,” he said.
South African Police spokesperson Brigadier Mohale Ramatseba confirmed that Alida was found dead at the flat and that her partner died in intensive care in the local hospital several days later.
He said: “A 42-year-old woman was found dead in a flat and 54-year-old man was found in extreme pain and subsequently died in hospital, and an inquest docket has been opened for both.
“Two empty bottles of homemade brew have been seized for forensic tests,” he said.
The founder of Brewsters Craft, Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, told TimesLive, that contamination can happen when people “don’t properly clean and sterilise the utensils they are using, which could lead to contamination by bacteria”, and that brews become undrinkable if stored incorrectly or left for too long.
South Africa went into Covid-19 lockdown six weeks ago on March 26 and among the many restrictions was the total ban on the sale, purchase or transportation of alcohol.
Now there is growing anger amongst the 58 million strong population at the ban on alcohol sales after President Cyril Ramaphosa said it would only last 3 weeks but has been rolled over twice.
He has also banned the sale or purchase of cigarettes nationwide as part of his super strict coronavirus lockdown which only a week ago allowed people to exercise within 5km of their homes.
The illicit production of home brewed alcoholic pineapple beer has gone through the roof with 10 times as many pineapples now being bought than when the booze ban was brought in.
Google announced that “how to brew homemade alcohol” was amongst their top internet searches in South Africa and it is almost impossible due to demand to find brewing yeast in supermarkets.
South African Breweries have also just announced that it will have to pour 400 million bottles of beer down the drain as they are not allowed to transport it to their bottling plants.
President Ramaphosa however is refusing all calls to relax the hugely unpopular alcohol or cigarette bans despite the colossal loss to the struggling country in taxation revenue.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said earlier this week: “I don’t like the ban on alcohol and tobacco. I lost the debate in Cabinet and therefore I must toe the line or I must leave the Cabinet.”
Parliament’s Finance & Appropriation Committee was also told that the tax lost by the alcohol ban for just April alone was the equivalent of £29.5m for beer, £13.3m for wine and £17.7m for spirits.
That does not include 13 days of lockdown outside April and with no end in sight of the ban being lifted there is growing anger amongst the population at off-licences staying shut.
The South African Liquor Brandowners Association called for the ban to be lifted stating that the revenue loss to the nation was enormous and that the industry was deeply affected.
It said that South Africa along with Panama and Sri Lanka were the only three countries in the world where all forms of alcohol sales to the population were still strictly prohibited by law.