A second couple has died in South Africa after making up a batch of home-brewed drink to get round the country’s alcohol ban on buying or selling alcohol during lockdown.
Western Cape couple Melvin Afrikaner, 54, and his wife Winnie, 50, were rushed to hospital on Friday after reportedly downing several bottles of potent home-made ginger beer, but unfortunately both passed away whilst in intensive care.
Only a fortnight ago estate agent Tony Hilliar, 54, and partner Alida Fouche, 42, died after allegedly consuming alcohol they had made at home.
It is believed both couples died after adding almost pure 97% alcohol in the form of ethanol into their home brew to make it stronger, but in so doing poisoned themselves.
South Africans have been banned from buying alcohol from supermarkets or off-licences since the lockdown began nearly eight weeks ago, and bars were shut. This has freed up hospitals beds for covid-19 patients, with the government reporting a 60% drop in trauma victims being admitted as a result of fewer alcohol-triggered accidents or violence.
The alcohol ban was part of a tough crackdown by the SA government who also banned the sale of cigarettes, introduced a night time curfew and forbade the sale of slip slops (amongst other items of clothing).
The first reported deaths came in Port Nolloth in Northern Cape province. Their brew has been sent by police for laboratory tests, but in the meantime the SAPS (South African Police Service) confirmed it appeared that both victims had died from alcohol poisoning.
In the latest tragedy the Afrikaner couple collapsed at their home in Ocean View, but managed to raise the alarm and were rushed by ambulance to hospital.
Sadly officials at False Bay Hospital said they could not be saved and police say they are now awaiting a post-mortem autopsy report to confirm the home-brew was responsible.
A relative, who asked not to be named, told IOL Media: “They drank home-made ginger beer which apparently had pure alcohol mixed into it and they died in the hospital.
“We hope this can be an eye-opener for others who are making these brews at home.”
Police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rxexana confirmed the deaths and said: “We are investigating the double death of a male and a female and awaiting post mortem results.
“A 54-year-old male and a 50-year-old woman died after an incident in Ocean View.”
The internet site alcoholrehab.com said in Africa it is common to use traditional recipes to make beer from items such as pineapple, ginger and sorghum but warned of the dangers.
It said:”Makers of these beverages and other homemade alcoholic drinks often add high-octane fuel or other chemicals to the mix to increase the euphoric effects of the brew.
“These harmful added ingredients however can cause death or irreparable damage to the drinker’s vital organs and can even cause blindness by damaging the optic nerves,” it said.
It added that in Kenya the locally brewed Chang’aa beer can include jet fuel or embalming fluid or battery acid and ends up so potent it translates into English as “Kill Me Quick”.
Last week thieves broke into the Rest in Peace funeral parlour in Clocolan in Free State province, South Africa, and stole four gallons of 97% alcohol proof exhumation liquid.
Police believe the criminals plan to use the liquid – which is usually used to preserve bodies that have been dug up for further criminal investigation – to pour into illegal mixtures to concoct powerful home brew.
South Africans are currently in Lockdown Level 4. It is expected that in Level 3 alcohol will be able to be purchased during certain hours on certain days.
For now, supermarkets have reported selling ten times as many pineapples as usual.
Google also reported that “how to brew homemade alcohol” has been one of their highest internet search requests in South Africa since the ban was brought into the country 55 days ago.
The loss of tax revenue to the nation by the ‘booze’ ban is said to be “eye watering” and South Africa along with Panama and Sri Lanka are now the only three countries operating an alcohol lockdown ban.
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