Pineapple and bread brew packs a punch. Nontuthuko Ngubane on her pal Thandi and the latest township lockdown drink.


Every weekend my neighbour, Thandi, comes knocking  on my bedroom window, asking for R2 or R5.

She knocks on my bedroom window, not the door. She reckons I respond faster that way, since I am always sleeping around 6am when she knocks.

Let me tell you a little about Thandi. She is unemployed and survives on social grants for her two kids.

Both her parents died within the five years I have stayed in Mount Royal, a township outside KwaMashu, Durban. So she now stays alone.

Her kids are with her sister in another township. They visit her and she adores them.

I also love her kids. They gave me a nickname, How-Are-You.

I will explain another day how I got that name.

Brutal fruit

So, during lockdown I thought about how Thandi and her friends would survive.

I say that because every weekend and some weekdays, especially around month-end, they sit around outside a tavern opposite us.

Mostly they drink the whole day.

I have sat with them a few times just to see what they do. That is a story for another day.

It’s Day 8 of the lockdown as I write this and all the taverns in the area have run out of alcohol.

Some were charging double or triple the normal price.

Thandi and her friends have turned to a new homemade drink.

They call it iFruit.

It is made from bread, pineapple and other ingredients. It gets you drunk, she told me.

A jug of it costs R20.

She had two jugs yesterday and said it got her very drunk.

I could see she was very drunk and happy.

Well Thandi is mostly happy and drunk.

lockdown drink
TASTE THE FEELING: A 2 litre bottle of iFruit – a homemade pineapple and bread brew – goes for R20.

News hour

In any case, when she came to see me around 6pm last night it was to watch the 7pm news on SABC 1.

I didn’t have the TV on. I never put it on because I don’t know how to. She doesn’t have a TV set so she watches with us sometimes.

I stay with my cousin, who works as a security guard at one of the malls in Durban. He is the only one who can operate our TV set (don’t ask me why or how).

So she waited for him to get home. He does essential work so he still goes to work during lockdown and comes back around 7pm.

Thandi wanted to watch the news because she heard the lockdown period would be extended and she just wanted to confirm this. (Ed’s note: this column was written before President Cyril Ramaphosa extended South Africa’s three-week lockdown by a further two weeks.)

She told me she would go crazy if it continued and won’t be voting next time because, “Wow”, the government was refusing them a good time to drink. How can the government deprive them of a drink?

In her own words, “Sis Nontu, I am telling you some people here in the township will die. They can’t survive without a beer. For them it is part of their daily meal.”

lockdown drink
HOME: Mount Royal, outside KwaMashu, Durban, where the writer lives. The township has grown quiet during lockdown. With the taverns running dry, early hours carousing is a thing of the past.

Smells like porridge

Being a journalist, I told her the government hadn’t extended the lockdown.

She didn’t trust me. I had been with her the whole day. My car was parked outside, so how would I have known the government hadn’t extended the lockdown.

I will wait for the news at 7pm, she said.

So I asked to take a sip of her drink. It smelt like pineapple, like mahewu (a thin, non-alcoholic drink made from maize meal porridge).

I told her I didn’t think this would make anyone drunk.

She laughed and said I knew nothing about alcohol.

Later, as I lay asleep thinking about all the things she had said to me, I was woken by a man on the street complaining that one cigarette now cost R4 in our local tuckshop.

Another responded, Are you going to stop smoking it now because it’s so expensive?

He said no. They walked on.

At least this Saturday I was not woken by a racket from  the tarven, Thandi and her friends singing and drinking.

For now the township is not really on lockdown it just sad faces wanting to drink or smoke.

Buy more locks

My security guard cousin explained it so well. He said it was really hard because normally the unemployed would drink from the employed; now since everyone is on lockdown it is a sad state.

He reckons we should also get more locks because once people get hungry they will break into people’s houses wanting food or things to sell to buy the now very expensive alcohol.

Just when I was about to finish writing this, I heard a knock on my door. It was another neighbour who wanted me to do some banking for her.

I don’t know her well but she said she heard I was a journalist and she knows we have a permit to go “anywhere”.

This lady is well known in the area, she just came back from prison after serving a 10 year sentence for being a mastermind in robbery and organised crime.

I do not fear her, she is really nice. She goes to church now and is born again.

She is on lockdown but still needs to pay her funeral policy and her debt. I told her later I would go to work, then I would do her banking.

It looks like it’s going to be a busy lockdown for me. Until I write again, Stay Home!


lockdown drink
BANNER IMAGE: Regular supplies of alcohol have sold out or become very pricey in lockdown Mount Royal, a township outside KwaMashu, Durban. Locals have turned to brewing their own, including a pineapple based drink known as iFruit. Pictures: Nontuthuko Ngubane


Now read… More questions than answers, from our Hilton diarist


Click on the image below to read more stories in our series of Coronavirus Chronicles