‘We are bleeding to death while govt. simply looks on’

Restaurant Association of South Africa chief executive officer Wendy Alberts says new lockdown regulations won’t make much of a difference in struggling businesses. Photo: Getty Images

Restaurant Association of South Africa chief executive officer Wendy Alberts says new lockdown regulations won’t make much of a difference in struggling businesses. Photo: Getty Images

The chief executive of the Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) says without alcohol sales, government’s lockdown green light for restaurants will not benefit an already bleeding industry.

This, after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country will remain on level 4 of the Covid-19 regulations for a further 14 days.

The new regulations, however, stipulate that restaurants are allowed to operate. Alcohol sales remain prohibited, even at restaurants.

Restaurant Association of South Africa chief executive Wendy Alberts. Photo: Twitter

Speaking to Food For Mzansi, Alberts points out that restaurant owners are unhappy despite Ramaphosa allowing them to trade under certain circumstances.

As an industry, they do not feel that government fully understands their needs.

“We’ve got a financial model to support, people to bring back to work, and with the limited number of 50 [patrons allowed at a restaurant] that is not possible. Fourteen days is not going to make a difference at all because we have debts.

“We are not food caravans and food trailers. We are businesses with overheads, bank loans, letters of demand from almost every single possible supplier. It’s endless and it doesn’t stop,” Alberts says

Township economy also affected

Meanwhile, the prohibition on alcohol sales have also had a negative impact on restaurants. For most restaurant owners, liquor is a core product at their establishments.

Alberts wants to understand how government could close an industry which pays an average of R2.5 billion in excise tax every month. Tax, she believes, that could have been used to build hospitals in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“[Government] doesn’t respect any of the people that work in or contribute to the alcohol industry.”

“Covid-19 numbers are going to be soaring through the roof again. Government needs to prepare the hospitals, open up liquor trade and use the tax money to prepare the hospitals so that there’s sufficient space for people to get medical care,” Alberts says.

Elvis Sekhaolelo, founder and executive director of eKasi Entrepreneur. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Meanwhile, Elvis Sekhaolelo, founder and executive director of public benefit organisation eKasi Entrepreneur, says off-site consumption would have been much better for taverns and bottle stores in townships.

“Many businesses have had to close down because of the ban. When we speak about townships, it’s even worse.

“Most of the township business operate on a hand-to-mouth basis, so the extended ban is putting strain on families,” Sekhaolelo says.

‘Seeing is believing’

In a joint media release issued by the Beer Association of South Africa (Basa), chief executive Patricia Pillay confirms that they will be submitting an urgent Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to government.

Patricia Pillay, CEO of the Beer Association of South Africa. Photo: twitter

“We have decided to submit our PAIA application in order to understand the rationale for the extension of the current ban when it is clear that thousands more jobs will be shed and billions more will be lost to the national fiscus,” Pillay writes.

Furthermore, while they note Ramaphosa’s announcement that Covid-19 TERS funding will be extended to industries affected by the lockdown, Basa will only believe it once they see it.

“We eagerly await the details of this assistance as businesses within the beer industry have received zero financial assistance since the start of the lockdown in March last year.”

Industry possibly misled with alcohol sales ban

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

The South African Liquor Brandowners’ Association (Salba) and National Liquor Traders pleads with Ramaphosa to avail himself to engage in dialogue with their industry.

“There is an apparent misalignment between the statements made by the president that consultations are taking place with all affected sectors when, in fact, it is a monologue, with industry making numerous proposals and sharing research while government keeps its cards close to its chest,” SALBA chairperson Sibani Mngadi says.

According to Mngadi, at no stage during the past 15 months has government shared the science on which they have based their decisions. This, despite repeated requests to do so.

‘You are shutting us down’

Rico Basson, managing director of Vinpro. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

The wine industry also stands at a tipping point, says experts following the protracted alcohol sales ban. According to Rico Basson, Vinpro managing director, the industry is being pulled apart by government.  

In a tweet, Basson says, “No, Mr President, you are shutting us down! Unfortunately, government persistence with blunt alcohol bans is breaking down the SA Wine industry and the 265 000 employees and their families.”

ALSO READ: Vinpro takes govt. to court over alcohol sales ban

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