Easter booze ban: ‘Uncle Cyril, we need to talk’

While the South African Liquor Brandowners’ Association welcomes government’s decision to only ban alcohol sales over the Easter weekend, everything isn’t hunky-dory. SALBA would like to understand the scientific data behind the controversial decision.

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The South African Liquor Brandowners’ Association (SALBA) has welcomed government’s decision to not impose another blanket ban on alcohol sales. This, as Mzansi braces itself for a dry long weekend following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation last night.

SALBA says maintaining economic activity while minimising the further spread of Covid-19 is critically important.

Ramaphosa says while the country will remain on coronavirus Alert Level 1, the sale of alcohol for off-site consumption will be a definite no-no. In-store sales of alcohol will not be allowed this coming Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

During his family meeting with the nation, the president explained the role alcohol plays in fuelling reckless behaviour, reinforcing government’s decision to establish some restrictions over the Easter weekend.

However, on-site sales at restaurants, shebeens and bars will be allowed, according to licensing conditions, up until 23:00.

Industry wants scientific proof  

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SALBA breathes a deep sigh of relief over the decision of a limited form of restriction. This after initial indications pointed to an 11-day booze sales ban.

While SALBA chairperson Sibani Mngadi welcomed government’s decision, they would still like to meaningfully engage with the authorities on the scientific data that informs this decision.

Sibani Mngadi, chairman of the South African Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA). Photo: Twitter
Sibani Mngadi, chairman of the South African Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA). Photo: Twitter

“The decision to keep the on-consumption trading environment open under the license conditions and limitations of the curfew is very much welcome. Taverns, bars, restaurants are a critical part of the tourism business which we need to assist to recover,” says Mngadi.

Earlier this week, SALBA submitted an urgent request for information to the minister of co-operative government and traditional affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and minister of health, Dr Zweli Mkhize.

SALBA would like to understand which scientific data influences government’s decisions to ban alcohol sales to spread Covid-19.

Mngadi says, “There is a need for more engagement with the government to better understand the thinking that informs restrictions of the off-consumption channel, which has been limited to four-days a week trade at various stages of the lockdown.”

Concerns raised over trade and industry minister

Since the coronavirus first hit Mzansi, alcohol sales bans have totaled 19 weeks of lost days of trade, leading to a R36 billion loss in sales revenue for the industry and a R29 billion tax revenue loss for government.

Read: Alcohol bans cost SA ‘1% of its total GDP’

Mngadi this week expressed concern that minister of trade and industry Ebrahim Patel has only met once with the liquor industry to discuss the sales bans.

“He has not responded to a series of correspondence from various organizations in the alcohol sector. We have, instead, been received by other ministers in the National Coronavirus Command Council, but not him,” said Mngadi.

Meanwhile the alcohol industry has reiterated its committed to playing its role in the economic recovery of Mzansi. They are seeking, in particular, a social compact with the government, industry, and civil society to promote responsible trading, and sensible alcohol consumption.

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