Listen up, South Africa. Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation this evening, and there is enough evidence that another liquor ban might be on the cards as covid-19 threatens to engulf our health system. Should the ban be reinstated with immediate effect, there won’t be time to stock-up as liquor stores are currently only allowed from Monday to Thursday.
However, in a joint statement by Mzansi’s liquor giants the government is warned that the livelihoods of up to one million people would be at risk if government were to reintroduce a liquor ban.
The alcohol industry, comprising the South African Liquor Brandowners’ Association (SALBA), the Beer Association of South Africa (BASA), VinPro, Liquor Traders Association of South Africa (LTASA) and the Liquor Traders Council of South Africa (LTCSA), also indirectly rubbished claims that people were misusing alcohol. After an initial liquor stock-up that lasted two weeks, liquor sales have actually started slowing recently, they say, with the share of spend dropping to below what it was last year.
“As an industry we are deeply concerned about the surge of covid-19 infections,” says SALBA CEO Kurt Moore. He warns that additional restriction on booze sales, including an outright ban, shorter trading hours or further restrictions on trading, would likely increase panic buying and overcrowding at retail outlets, which would increase the risk of transmission of the virus.
‘Disastrous economic impact’
Moore says, “In addition to the increased transmission risk, a further restriction in sales would have a disastrous economic impact on the industry and continue to exacerbate the loss of excise revenue. Further restricting the legal trade of alcohol would fuel the growth in the illicit liquor market, which does not comply with the measures implemented by the industry and would lead to further irresponsible consumption of alcohol.”
Vinpro CEO Rico Basson added, “Across the value chain, the alcohol industry has prioritised the safety of its workforce and consumers by implementing safety and social distancing measures. We continue to maintain our commitments and undertakings around safety measures, responsible trading, and the promotion of responsible consumption.
“Through our industry partnerships we have leveraged the alcohol industry’s extensive distribution and retail networks nationwide to supply much needed personal protective equipment and hand sanitisers in support of government’s efforts to combat the spread of covid-19.”
The convener of the Liquor Traders Council, Lucky Ntimane, says, “Our network of some 34 000 taverners across the country have been supported through partnerships with industry and this has have included the development and implementation of innovations such as the various “click-and-collect” apps. These apps were launched country-wide across retailers and tavern owners to help reduce queues, improve social distancing and make it safer for consumers to order and collect their purchases.”
BASA CEO Patricia Pillay has also raised alarmed. She says, “We are all in this fight together and as an industry we are committed to working with Government to find solutions which includes prioritising lives and safeguarding livelihoods across the sector during this pandemic, whilst ensuring that we adhere to safety, responsible trading, and the sensible consumption of alcohol.”
The liquor giants say they remain committed to work with government to address the societal challenges linked to alcohol abuse and its impact on the health sector and cautions against further restrictions in sales. They have been engaging continuously” with the department of trade, industry and competition and, over the past week, also with the Eastern Cape premier, Oscar Mabuyane, the Liquor Authority as well as the Western Cape MEC for community safety, Albert Fritz.
Three premiers battling covid-19
In addition, the industry has reached out to Gauteng premier David Makhura and awaits a response in this regard. Makhura is, however, in self-isolation after becoming the third premier to test positive for covid-19. Allan Winde and Job Mokgoro, respectively the premiers of the Western Cape and North West, are also continuing with their duties from home whilst fighting the coronavirus.
Recently, the premiers of the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Gauteng warned against the abuse of alcohol during the protracted covid-19 lockdown with the Eastern Cape government saying it wants the ban on liquor reinstated.
Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko says an exact time for Ramaphosa’s address this evening is yet to be announced. This article will be updated as soon as we have received further confirmation.