South Africa's lockdown ban on cigarette, alcohol sales sees crime rate fall

South Africa’s ban on alcohol and cigarette sales during its seven-week Covid-19 lockdown has helped reduce crime and injuries caused by substance abuse.

However, there are fears it's sparked more activity in organised crime, the BBC reports.

In Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, police are not only patrolling the streets at night to ensure the public are following lockdown rules, but also stopping them from selling or carrying the contraband.

While the South African government says the deeply controversial ban is working, keeping violence down and freeing up hospital beds for coronavirus patients, it's feared the move has helped see a rise in organised crime.

In one instance, a group of students were caught selling cigarettes on behalf of gangsters.

"They are very scary. They carry guns around. They can't trust anyone," one student said.

The ban has also seen a rise in bootlegging, including gin distilled from a kitchen.

A mother-of-three selling homemade pineapple beer - her only source of income - said she was afraid of being caught by the police.

"If police catch me, they'll put me in jail," she said. "My kids - who can look after my kids?"

Meanwhile, dozens of vineyards in Capetown have been forced to close amid the outbreak, with thousands of workers losing their jobs.