At least 14 people have now died and ten more are reportedly fighting for their lives in hospital after drinking home-brew beer, with lethal sources of alcohol added to it, made to get round South Africa’s lockdown alcohol ban.
Police have revealed that three people died in each of three different villages close to each other in the Eastern Cape after drinking the brew which was mixed with potent additives like methylated spirits.
The nine most recent victims apparently suffered excruciating stomach pains and vomiting. Most sadly passed away before reaching hospital, while the others were declared deceased shortly after being admitted.
The eight men and a woman came from Ndanka village near Stutterheim, Bumbane village near Keiskammahoek and Nonibe Village near King William’s Town. They died in the last five days from the illegal alcohol concoction.
Police spokesperson Colonel Sibongile Soci confirmed that officers are investigating the nine deaths which are all linked by the victims having drunk potent home brewed beer shortly before being pronounced dead.
She appealed to community members not to experiment with homemade beer or alcoholic mixtures as they could prove to be lethal or cause permanent damage such as organ failure or blindness.
Colonel Soci said: “I can confirm inquest dockets have been opened for the deaths of three people at Nonibe and three at Bumbane and another three more are currently under investigation at Ndanka.”
Nine other local men are being treated in hospital for the effects of alcohol poisoning.
Eastern Cape Health Department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo confirmed the nine survivors
had also drunk the same brew as some of the victims and were now fighting for their lives in Stutterheim Hospital.
Mr Kupelo said: “Deaths from home-made beer are on the rise, and it is extremely dangerous to drink any concoction mixed with methylated spirits. People have to refrain from this habit as it kills.”
Laboratory tests are being carried out on the nine latest victims and on blood samples taken from the nine who remain in a critical condition to confirm the exact cause of the poisonings.
Brakpan dad critical after drinking home-made liquor
In Brakpan in Gauteng province last week a man died from organ failure and his father is critical in intensive care at the Far East Rand Hospital after drinking home-made liquor.
The 34-year-old father-of-two and his dad bought the booze from a local vendor before both collapsed in agony after knocking back the brew, and were rushed straight to hospital
Three weeks ago estate agent Tony Hilliar, 54, and his bride-to-be Alida Fouche, 42, died after making a powerful brew from pineapples after drinking just one bottle of it each.
Secretary Alida collapsed and died at their home in Port Nolloth in Northern Cape Province, and her fiancé Tony – who had called the emergency services – died several days later in hospital.
It is thought they had added hand sanitiser which contains 70% alcohol to their home-brew to increase the strength but died, according to police in extreme pain, from the concoction at their home.
A week later married Melvin Afrikaner, 54, and wife Winnie, 50, died after being rushed to hospital from their home in Ocean View, Cape Town, after drinking home-made alcoholic ginger beer.
A family member said it is believed they had added 97% proof ethanol to the brew to make it potent but poisoned themselves instead and, despite being taken to intestine care, could not be saved by doctors.
Both died in False Bay Hospital in Western Province shortly after being admitted.
One home-brew drinker Thembise Geniwe interviewed by the Daily Dispatch said: “We buy the ingredients from the local shops and it tastes like normal alcohol but we know it’s dangerous but we still drink it.
“It’s cheaper because for R50 (£2.40p) four people can get very drunk from the brew,” he said.
Drinkers in South Africa have been banned from buying alcohol for over eight weeks with supermarkets and off licences banned from selling it by President Cyril Ramaphosa since lockdown began on March 27.
South Africa’s alcohol ban to be lifted on 1 June
But yesterday (Sunday 24 May) the President in a national address announced the alcohol ban will be lifted on June 1 for off-licence sales only and it will only be on certain days of the week and during restricted hours. (Watch a hilarious video of South Africans celebrating the lift of the alcohol ban.)
It means the nation will have not been able to buy alcohol for 65 days.
Since the ban, alcohol loving South Africans have begun making strong home-brew beer from traditional recipes, using pineapples or root ginger, sugar and brewers yeast.
Google has also reported that “how to brew homemade alcohol” is one of their highest internet search requests in South Africa since the alcohol ban came into force clocking up millions of hits each week.
The loss of tax revenue to the nation from the ban is said to be “eye watering” and South Africa along with Panama and Sri Lanka are now the only three countries in the world still banning the sale of alcohol in lockdown.
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