56. South Africa‘s Troubled Relationship with Alcohol – Professor Charles Parry


Tribe Sober – inspiring an alcohol-free life!

This week my guest is Researcher and Activist, Professor Charles Parry, who works tirelessly to bring about social change in South Africa.  He is the Head of the Alcohol and Drug Unit at the SAHMRC, an organisation that reports directly into the Department of Health and has the overall goal to improve the health of the nation.

In this Episode

  • Although many people in South Africa don’t drink, the ones who do are drinking excessively
  • A whole industry exists which makes a profit from these heavy drinkers – profits that are demanded by their shareholders
  • Charles talked about the tricky role which alcohol has played in the history of this country – as a tool of oppression. During apartheid, miners who lived far from home had nothing else to do at night apart from drink in beer halls – which of course provided more profits for liquor suppliers
  • And of course, the dop system where farmworkers received part of their wages in alcohol –creating a generation of dependent drinkers. And also playing into the fact that SA has incredibly high levels of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • The dop system is now of course prohibited but alcohol remains a major source of harm: 170 people a day die of alcohol-related causes and the burden on the health care system is tremendous
  • Of course, poverty and the unemployment rates play a big role in the binge drinking culture – lack of alternative recreational activities and the feeling of lack of a future for many people, as well as peer pressure, all have an influence
  • Young people are also convinced by the marketing industry that successful people drink – usually expensive brands of whisky or brandy!
  • Charles has been very involved in the fall-out from the pandemic over the last 18 months – he talked to us about the 4 alcohol bans and the fact that every time alcohol was banned, the admission to hospital trauma units fell by a staggering 60% – releasing space for Covid patients
  • It’s been like a massive social experiment – like turning a tap on and off!
  • Medical staff talked of the changing nature of their work – trauma units no longer smelt of blood and alcohol during alcohol bans
  • We discussed how alcohol weakens the immune system, making us more susceptible to disease, including Covid
  • Covid patients who were heavy drinkers had poorer chances of surviving than non-drinkers
  • The liquor industry, of course, pushed back against the alcohol bans and lamented their reduced profits. But this was false rhetoric because in fact, their profit increased due to people stocking up before the bans!
  • Obviously banning alcohol forever is not a possibility, but the bans have proved to Charles that government IS PREPARED to take drastic action when required
  • It proves that something CAN be done and government needs to implement a plan of measures that will address this problem
  • Charles shared some of his ideas – some of which he has already presented to the government – Covid has actually strengthened his case with the stark reminder of the harm that alcohol is doing to South African society
  • Charles posts daily on his TW account – some really great links and comments on there, so please follow him if you can – we need to support the great work he is doing!
  • His TW handle is @profparry
  • We start our annual 66 day challenge – Sober Spring here in South Africa but can be a Sober Autumn as well!
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This episode is sponsored by the Tribe Sober Membership Program.  If you want to change your relationship with alcohol then sign up today.  Read more about our program and subscribe HERE.

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Till Next Week

Janet x


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