A Personal Blog by Hatse Nomaqhiza
Families, sitting in socially distanced circles, with lone candles burning sorrowful lights in the centre, were heard singing “Kumbaya merlot, kumbaya”. Pineapple suddenly became more valuable than saffron. The alcohol sales ban in South Africa was proof that coronavirus was the horseman that lead the other four. It came to end us. Braais were paired with juice and tea. The coffee mugs that helped people relax in the evening, actually had coffee in them now. Every few hours a bomb would detonate. It wasn’t bombs…it was the pineapple wine expressing its claustrophobia. We were in the middle of an apocalypse and everybody had to stay indoors in order to keep the population safe, so that we could all binge-watch Doomsday Preppers and take notes this time. Stress levels were increasing, and statistics were showing worrying numbers. A bat-signal is fictional, but would a wine-signal work?
Superheroes that appeared out of nowhere, came hauling wine…real wine. The only drawback was that the price of a single bottle of wine was exactly the same as the mortgage. Pricing was steep and stiff. “Take it or leave it” they would say. At first you’d leave it, but soon you’d consider taking it. Some took. They had appeared out of nowhere, like a fart in a packed elevator. Where were they getting the banned drinks from? Cigarette sales were also banned. These vino ghost-merchants were now providing tobacco products too, at the price of an SUV’s monthly instalment. Suddenly we found ourselves succumbing to either home-brewing and clamouring for brewer’s yeast at the stores, which was gone within weeks, or having a ghost-merchant on speed dial. This quickly became a study on the human’s rebellious reflex that kicks in when forced to not do something. A lot of people don’t even drink that often, but because they were told that they weren’t allowed to anymore, it suddenly became a pressing need. The wine glasses looked odd sitting in the cupboard with no wine in them. The ghost-merchants’ services suddenly became the second most essential service after medical services.
The ban was lifted, and just like that the ghost-merchants were gone. Who were they? Where did they get stock from? Where are they now? Are they now offering illegal international flights for the “Take it or leave it” price of one lung and one kidney fresh out of your chest and abdomen?
They are the most confusing part of this pandemic. You love them for supplying what was so desperately needed at a very trying time, and you hate them for exploiting the desperation with their exorbitant prices. A great lesson from the bans, was that buying in bulk is a great plan. You don’t want to be stuck shouting “Vino!” out of your window in the dark, hoping to hear a ghost-merchant shouting “Polo!” again.
The virus isn’t gone. We’re not in the clear yet. We still have to take all the precautions necessary to stop the spread of the virus…and to prevent another ban.