While they are relieved to have dodged another blanket clampdown on booze sales, the alcohol industry has levelled various points of criticism against the new Level Three lockdown sales restrictions gazetted this week.
Organisations have deemed the restrictions “arbitrary and punitive” towards working people, who are left with very little time to purchase alcohol legally for home consumption.
Renewed criticism was also voiced at the lack of enforcement of Covid-19 lockdown regulations, which could go some way in avoiding waves of infection that necessitate drastic lockdown measures.
Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this week (15 June) placed the country on adjusted alert level three of the national lockdown citing concerns of the grip of a third wave of Covid-19 infections and its impact on an already pressured health sector.
New changes under the regulations include a curfew from 22:00 to 04:00 as well as restrictions only allowing the retail sales of alcohol from Monday to Thursday. Bars, restaurants, shebeens and taverns are permitted to sell alcohol for on-site consumption until 17:00
In a press release South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) chairperson Sibani Mngadi said, “This approach denies the average working person, most of whom are unable to go shopping during the week, the right to legally purchase alcohol for home consumption during their sparse free time. It is arbitrary and punitive to lower-income groups.”
‘Time for govt. to step up’ – Vinpro
Wine industry body Vinpro warned of dire consequences for businesses and the livelihoods of those working in the South African wine industry value-chain.
In a recent media release, Vinpro managing director Rico Basson said that the industry shared Ramaphosa’s concerns over the sudden and severe spike in Covid-19 cases.
“We know and have clear evidence that the restriction of legal trade in wine and other liquor products fuels the growth of the illicit market,” he said.
“Illicit trade currently represents 22% of the total local liquor consumption and has grown significantly since 2020. Because this illicit market is outside the regulatory reach of government and operates uncontrolled, it may have a devastating effect on communities from a health and socio-economic perspective.”
Basson added that wine was an integral part of agriculture, and tourism. “The wine industry proactively implemented preventative measures to protect employees and visitors to farms, as well as the industry’s 533 wineries.
“It is also time for government to step up and properly police non-compliance with Covid-19 regulations as it certainly does not help to impose harsh restrictions every time the health care system is experiencing a crisis, while regulations are not enforced.”
Vaccine rollout – industry offers to help
SALBA chief executive Kurt Moore added that the surge in daily cases of infections was a warning to everyone to remain vigilant and adhere to health protocols.
SALBA said it too shared the concerns of government but was left disappointed by its inability to efficiently roll out the vaccine programme to enable business to return to some level of normality.
Moore said the targeted population herd immunity threshold was 29 million adults. “South Africa must vaccinate 250 000 to 300 000 people per day before the end of the year to avoid significantly higher numbers of Covid-related deaths.”
“The industry reiterates its offer to provide whatever logistical assistance the government requires to achieve this huge operational undertaking,” he said.
Compliance a priority for taverners
Meanwhile, Cape Town taverners took a leaf from the Covid-19 safety bible, gathering at the Rands tavern in Khayelitsha on Youth Day (16 June) for training on enhanced Covid-19 compliance.
The training, sponsored by Distell, was conducted through support from the Western Cape Liquor Traders Organisation in co-operation with the Western Cape Liquor Authority.
Protocols of the Western Cape Liquor Board has become a Covid-19 “bible” for taverners, said National Liquor Traders Council convenor Lucky Ntimane.
On a regular Youth Day, taverners would regard one another as competitors, but this year they took the time to shut their doors on the public holiday to brush up on their Covid-19 compliance training.
“We are united in the fight against Covid-19, and we are doing everything possible to keep our customers and staff safe. No one should come to a tavern expecting to misbehave or disregard the safety protocols, we won’t accept it,” said Ntimane.
Distell Western Cape regional manager Sholto Simms said he was delighted by the support from taverners for the training, amid the Level Three lockdown.
“Partnerships like these where companies like Distell, small township businesses and provincial authorities work together for the common good show what we can achieve when we all pull in the same direction,” said Simms.
“This pandemic has forged a new level of co-operation that we can build on together for a better future.”