South Africa

Whisky from Ghana now a hot ticket item in Gauteng

Whisky from Ghana now a hot ticket item in Gauteng

Paul* carries a small satchel on his back. You wouldn’t know that inside is a carton of cigarettes and sachets of whisky. He will sell them to informal miners in Payneville, Springs, and sometimes in Benoni, both in Gauteng. 

“Miners buy all the sachets, with no questions asked. Sometimes l go back into town [Springs] to buy stock twice or thrice a day,” he says.

He prefers to sell to informal miners. They pay cash. He says many people in the townships ask to buy on credit.

Paul used to work offloading trucks and packing shelves at a supermarket.

Then came the lockdown, and the boss told him only permanent employees would continue working.

“Just like that they told me to stay at home and that they would call me after the lockdown, if they needed me,” he says.

With no income, he turned to the flourishing black market in tobacco products and booze which has rocketed during the lockdown.

The 50ml K20 whisky sachets (43% alcohol) are a product of Accra, Ghana, and are bought wholesale for R15 each. They are sold for R25 a sachet.

He buys cigarettes for R400 a “brick” (carton) and sells them for R700, cash on delivery.

For these he now has several clients in townhouses in Springs. He does not like selling loose cigarettes as it draws too much attention.

So far, his sales have allowed him to cover his R1,200 rent and send money to his wife and baby in Zimbabwe.

*Hazvi has also turned to selling whisky sachets, buying them for R10 and selling for R30. She used to do sex work at a hotel in Springs but it has closed due to lockdown.

She still has a few clients, who come to her flat and buy whisky.

*Ike, a Ghanaian, gets the whisky sachets from Johannesburg and sells them wholesale in Springs. He connects with his clients by mobile phone.

He owned a hair salon, but it has closed.

“Selling whisky sachets and cigarettes is the only option l have at the moment,” he says.

His wife and two children depend on him.

*Levi, a Malawian, used to plait dreadlocks on a street corner, but metro police officers chased him away.

Some clients come to his shack in Daggafontein for hair plaiting, but whisky is his new income.

“Now I only travel into town to stock up on sachets. People come to me to buy. I do not have to go to them,” he says.

*Rose used to work at a chicken outlet, but it closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has since reopened for deliveries, but she has not been told to return to work.

She goes door to door in informal settlements selling the Ghanaian whisky sachets.

“The problem is that there are now too many of us selling these sachets,” she says. “At least l am able to pay rent. Maybe things will get better if they call me back to work.”

*Full names withheld to protect identities.

  • Originally published by GroundUp