All indications are that South Africa faces an extended alcohol sales ban amid increasing Covid-19 infections. With the Vinpro interdict hearing now postponed until 23 August, consumers of alcoholic beverages should also not keep their hopes up that the courts would intervene any time soon.
Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede urges government to discontinue the ban to save our ailing economy.
In an interview with Food For Mzansi, he adds that the livestock ban implemented as part of the level 4 lockdown rules are also squandering the growth of our already crippled economy.
Instead, government should be working with the private sector to implement creative solutions that does not put people’s livelihoods at risk.
“An outright ban is counterproductive, and it really just fuels the illicit selling of alcohol.
“In addition to that, if we continue with this ban of livestock auctions it could have a tremendous negative impact on food production and, especially, on the availability of meat products for consumers,” he cautions.
Christo, do you think that the alcohol sales ban will be lifted this week? The current lockdown level is in place until 11 July 2021.
We hope and trust that the alcohol ban will be lifted this week. Obviously, it is important that we observe all health protocols and that we support government in its efforts to mitigate the destructive and deadly impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in Gauteng.
What is your view of Vinpro’s interdict hearing being postponed?
It is a bit disappointing that Vinpro’s interdict hearing was postponed, but we trust that that hearing will take place as soon as possible so that clarity will be given in terms of the outcomes that Vinpro is seeking.
It’s been two weeks since you raised concerns about livestock auctions amid the 14-day lockdown with government. Have you received any response from them?
We have raised concerns regarding auctions with several government departments, including ministers Thoko Didiza and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
We have received a letter from the director-general of the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Mooketsa Ramasodi. He confirmed that they are currently investigating this issue and they have proposed that the previous directive be applied and that the ban on auctions be lifted as soon as possible.
While we support government in its efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic, we urge all of our people to be cautious and take the necessary precautions to prevent the deadly impact of this virus.
We also feel that the economy must somehow be accommodated in all of this. Also, instead of just having an outright ban, we need to come up with very creative ideas to ensure that alcohol sales and wine farms still do operate.