The Dop System (also known as the Tot system), while no longer legal in South Africa continues to have a lasting influence on the lifestyle of many South African people who became dependent on alcohol during its relevance. The Dop System (named after the Afrikaans word for an alcoholic drink) was a system of payment used from the beginning of the 19th century through 2003 in which agricultural workers were paid in alcohol for their services instead of being paid in money.
Colonial expansion at the end of the 18th century brought many Dutch speaking settlers to the Cape colony looking for work and farm land. At this point in South African history, the country had switched hands from the Dutch to the British and back again, but remained under British rule. These Dutch speaking farmers, in an act of independence began pushing inland, away from British rule. This movement was later called “the Great Trek”, and these farmers became known as “Afrikaaners” – not British. On these farms many properties grew grapes, made wine, and dealt in agricultural products. Many of the farms employed slaves. Slaves were given wine or alcohol for their hard work, sometimes as often as 5 times a day. On December 1st, 1838 the British Government abolished slavery. Rather than returning to Cape Town to find jobs, some of the newly freed workers chose to stay on their farms. The practice of “dops” was outlawed in 1960, but wasn’t enforced until the 1990’s. Then in 2003, a new Liquor Act officially outlawed the Dops System, but there have been rumors of some farm workers still receiving partial payment in alcohol.
Alcoholism in South Africa is still a huge issue, especially among farm workers who while not paid directly in alcohol, spend their earnings on liquor. Another byproduct of the rampant alcohol consumption tendencies in South Africa are the number of cases of FASD in the Western Cape. FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) is a group of conditions that result from mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy. These conditions include neurological, behavioral, and developmental disabilities. Specific populations in South Africa have among the highest documented prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and FASD in the world. Hopefully understanding the history of the problem, focusing on educating the populations most directly effected, and crafting a government run program to aid in alcohol abuse will help diminish the legacy of the Dop System.