The curious case of the Gauteng man bust for possession of alcohol

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The curious case of the Gauteng man bust for possession of alcohol

Bheki Cele, ministe of police.

Bheki Cele, ministe of police.

  • The man was arrested at a roadblock in Gauteng on 13 June during an Okae Molao operation.
  • According to a tweet by the Gauteng Department of Community Safety, he was arrested for possession of alcohol, but its spokesperson said it was for drinking and driving.
  • Neither the department nor the police have made the man’s charge sheet available to clarify the charge. 

On 13 June a motorist travelling with alcohol in his car was stopped at a roadblock in Gauteng.

He was one of many motorists stopped that day, but it was his run-in with the authorities which sparked a lot of questions for Police Minister Bheki Cele and the SAPS.

The man was stopped at a roadblock and arrested during an Okae Molao operation in Gauteng on the Saturday. However,  it remains unclear on what charge he was arrested.

The man, whose identity is not known to News24, first made an appearance on Twitter, when the Gauteng Department of Community Safety tweeted that he had been arrested on the spot after being found in possession of alcohol.

A short video was then posted to Twitter by Police Minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson Lirandzu Themba, showing Cele interacting with the same man, questioning him about the alcohol.

In the video, which starts in the middle of the conversation between the man and Cele, the man contends that the alcohol had been in his vehicle since Thursday, and that he was taking it home.

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Cele then asked about an open pack of Savannahs in the vehicle. The man did not answer this question directly, but he responded to a request about the receipt for the alcohol from someone else in the crowd.

He said that he wanted to phone for the receipts.

The video ends before the rest of the conversation unfolds.

Minister Cele now talking to a motorist who is transporting alcohol in the boot of his car. He explains that the alcohol was bought on Wednesday and has been stored in his car ever since. pic.twitter.com/kHzknh4ON0

— Lirandzu Themba (@LirandzuThemba) June 13, 2020

The incident drew dozens of comments, with many people questioning why the man was arrested, as only the sale of alcohol between Friday and Sunday has been banned and, seemingly, not the transportation thereof.

Twitter users responded to Themba and the department’s tweets, asking what law the man had broken for him to be arrested. These replies didn’t appear to elicit any further clarity from the authorities.

When News24 questioned why the man was arrested, different law enforcement agencies were either not forthcoming with information, or the information provided was contradictory.

Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) spokesperson Wayne Minnaar did not answer questions about the man’s arrest, referring News24 to police.

He did, however, say that the liquor was confiscated because the man couldn’t produce a receipt.

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The Gauteng Department of Community Safety Twitter account states that the man was arrested after being found in possession of alcohol.

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However, when questioned, department spokesperson Ofentse Morwane said the man was arrested because he was caught drinking and driving and because “lockdown regulations are clear, no alcohol is to be consumed anywhere except at home”.

“In addition, alcohol sales are also from Monday to Thursday which means that any other day alcohol is prohibited from being transported or consumed except at home,” Morwane told News24.

Morwane said the man had been charged with drinking and driving, but did not give News24 a copy of the charge sheet as requested.

Police spokesperson Colonel Noxolo Kweza said the only comment that they would give on the matter was that the man had been released on a warning.

Requests for the charge sheet or for information pertaining to what the man was arrested for were ignored by police.

The man’s arrest remains murky, as News24 has been unable to see an official charge sheet.

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None of the Twitter posts make any mention that the man was arrested for drinking and driving, but instead focus on the fact that the man had alcohol in his possession when he was stopped.

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While it remains unclear if the man was arrested for possession of alcohol, News24 previously reported that there was no ban on the transportation of alcohol during Level 3 of the lockdown, according to a law expert.   

The sale of alcohol and its transportation was prohibited during Levels 5 and 4 of the lockdown. This ban was lifted on 1 June when the Level 3 regulations came into effect.

According to these regulations, alcohol can be purchased from Monday to Thursday. Additionally, there is no regulation which prohibits the transportation of alcohol on the days where the sale of liquor is not allowed.

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Law expert, advocate Deon Pool, told News24 that nothing in the Level 3 regulations stipulates that alcohol should not be transported. He said confiscating alcohol was tantamount to theft.

“The problem here is that the regulation does not say you aren’t allowed to transport alcohol. There is no indication in the regulations that you can’t transport alcohol.”

Eyewitness News reported that national police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo previously warned that, if citizens were found travelling with alcohol outside of the stipulated days and hours, they would be arrested.

Naidoo reportedly retracted this statement, saying it was not an offence to transport alcohol but citizens were discouraged to do so outside the stipulated time, TimesLive reported.