Alcohol giants commit R165m for ‘harm-reduction plans’

Despite being on life support due to the earlier covid-19 booze sales ban, the alcohol industry has announced a R165 million investment in direct harm-reduction programmes to, among others, help those with drinking problems. The industry will also provide personal protective equipment to hospitals nationwide.

Rico Basson, the managing director of Vinpro. Photo: Supplied

In a joint media release, some of the nation’s liquor giants say their investment is to focus on upscaling existing programmes and finding new, innovative measures to deal with key areas of concern.

Spokesperson Sibani Mngadi says while role players are appreciative of the opportunity to trade again during level 2 of the covid-19 regulations, both traders and consumers are urged to abide by all the lockdown rules.

“Make sure that drinking occasions do not contribute to the spread of infections and unnecessary burden on the health system,” Mngadi says. “We have a collective responsibility to protect our livelihoods as various players in the alcohol value chain. Consumers equally have a responsibility to behave appropriately and not expose themselves and others to unnecessary harm and potential infections.”

The South African alcohol industry includes, but is not limited to, the National Liquor Traders Council, South African Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA), the Beer Association of South Africa (BASA), Vinpro, the National Liquor Traders Council, and manufacturers.

Supporting the health care system

SALBA CEO Kurt Moore. Photo: Supplied

A further commitment was made to supply personal protective equipment, such as face masks, to hospitals in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. These are the four provinces hit the most by SARS-CoV-2. This commitment is valued at R15.5 million.

Since the outbreak of covid-19, businesses in the liquor value chain have already made direct investments to the health system. This includes the provision of more than 200 000 litres of pure alcohol for the production of sanitisers, supplying of finished hand sanitisers and other protective material.

Gender-based violence and femicide

Another key area of concern for the industry is gender-based violence and femicide. They say they have committed to partnering with government and civil society in addressing the issue of gender-based violence and the brutal killing of women.

In this regard, South African Breweries has already launched a WhatsApp helpline through its #NoExcuse campaign against gender-based violence. This is described as a safe reporting platform linking victims to counselling support services. Currently, dialogues with tavern owners are also underway to explore the best measures to try and curb gender-based violence as the alcohol industry.

READ MORE: Liquor traders to address gender-based violence in townships

Don’t drink and drive (or drink and walk!)

Convener of the National Liquor Traders Council Lucky Ntimane. Photo: Supplied

Furthermore, the industry says it is working with retail partners, especially taverns, to introduce a “patrol buddy” system to walk intoxicated customers home. The industry has pledged to support legislative and enforcement measures to reduce drinking and driving, or walking.

They are also in discussions with the retail sector to explore the implementation of an ID verification system in all retail outlets (both for on- and off-consumption), as well as the extension of the underage drinking education programme.

The industry says it will ramp up its consumer education campaigns on binge drinking, which will include responsible messaging as well as defining drinking guidelines to influence behaviour. Already, various brands are offering reduced alcohol products and 0% alcohol products to encourage responsible drinking habits.