Gather up, good people of South Africa! Uncle Cyril has scheduled a “family meeting” for 20:00, and agricultural leaders are hopeful that he might relax some of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
Today, Mzansi’s first million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived from Mumbai, India. With nearly 59 million citizens, the country still has a long way to on its journey to successfully curb the coronavirus spread.
Family meeting agenda
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation comes 15 days before the official end of the gazetted regulations that were announced in December. This includes the extended curfew from 21:00 to 05:00, and the prohibition of alcohol sales and most indoor and outdoor gatherings.
“We trust that the president will lift the ban on alcohol sales,” said Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede in an interview with Sinesipho Tom.
“We agree that this must be done in a responsible way, and not burden the health sector with alcohol-related trauma cases. Lift the ban on beaches as well, and help the tourism and restaurant industries to get back on its feet again.”
Agbiz chief executive Dr John Purhcase tells Noluthando Ngcakani his organisation has been in extensive discussions with Thoko Didiza, minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development last week.
Their discussions included the possibility of a phased lifting of the alcohol ban.
Purchase too is hopeful that this proposal would have met the approval of both the National Coronavirus Command Council and cabinet.
“We made certain representations to Nedlac and the minister on the partial lifting of the ban,” said Purchase. “In other words, opening sales for certain allotted hours for off-site sales.
“We expect a phased lifting of the alcohol ban. You can’t just lift everything at one go. At this point, the risk is too high. We did ask for a phased lifting and that is what we expect. If that is what it will be, we don’t know.”
Long road ahead
Duncan Masiwa reports that Wendy Pienaar, CEO of the Craft Brewers’ Association of South Africa, is also hopeful that Ramaphosa’s “family meeting” might have good news for her industry. Earlier this week, she said that at least 70% of craft brewers risk permanent closure of the alcohol sales ban.
“We hope that he will give firm answers as to when, and how, future trading will be affected so that proper plans can put in place to protect the breweries and their staff,” she said.
“However, it is important to note that reopening of alcohol sales will not instantly solve the problem faced by craft breweries. The cash flow cycle at a small brewery is between 30 and 60 days. This means that craft brewers face another two hard months before they can start paying staff, suppliers, landlords and loans.”
Pienaar reminder South Africans that a blanket extension for SARS excise duties and levies has not been granted.
“Each brewery needs to apply for their own extension of payment dates.
“There is, also, still the issue of license extensions that need to be addressed for the months when brewers were not allowed to trade according to the terms of their licenses.”
Vinpro gave government until Friday to lift the alcohol sales ban, or face them in the Cape Town High Court. The ultimatum was in a bit to save the beleaguered local wine industry.
“(The ban) resulted in a loss of more than R8 billion in direct sales and the possible closure of cellars and producers,” says Vinpro MD Rico Basson.
In the wine industry alone, it is threatening 27 000 jobs “and putting the most vulnerable in our communities in a poverty trap which will have far reaching socio-economic outcomes that will place an even greater strain on our healthcare system.”
In total, the booze sales ban has now been in place for nearly 20 weeks since March 2020. Ramaphosa earlier reiterated that the ban was implemented in a desperate attempt to relieve pressure on the health system.