Thu, 28 Jan 2021

  • South Africa is on its third alcohol ban since the outbreak of Covid-19 last year, following the country's unprecedented rise in cases and concerns that hospital beds would be filled up by alcohol related trauma cases.
  • The alcohol industry has bemoaned the bans, calling for off-premises alcohol trading in order to protect livelihoods.
  • The country's taverns and shebeens employ 250 000 people out of the 415 000 livelihoods the industry accounts for and 165 000 people have already lost their jobs across the industry

South Africa's wine producers and liquor traders have slammed the government's extension of the ban on the sale of alcohol, saying it will kill businesses and livelihoods.

The country is on its third alcohol ban, since the outbreak of Covid-19 last year, following the country's unprecedented rise in cases and concerns that hospital beds would be filled up by alcohol related trauma cases.

Alcohol producers have been at loggerheads with the government for months on its bans, culminating in the country's largest beer producer, Brazilian-owned South African Breweries, taking legal action in the hopes of having the ban set aside.

The industry has bemoaned the bans, calling for off-premises alcohol trading in order to protect livelihoods. But President Cyril Ramphosa's Monday night announcement that the blanket ban would continue under level 3, dashed hopes of a less strict ban.

Spokesperson for the Liquor Traders Formation, Lucky Ntimane said on Tuesday that Ramphosa had not consulted adequately with the industry before extending the ban.

'Disdain' for the sector

"We continue to get a sense that this government ignores our right to operate and the disdain shown by the president for the sector worries us as we are made to feel like we are on our own and we need to device means to fend for ourselves in the absence of any financial relief being put on the table," Ntimane said.

The country's taverns and shebeens employ 250 000 people out of the 415 000 livelihoods the industry accounts for and 165 000 people have already lost their jobs across the industry. Ntimane said most liquor traders will not be able to reopen their doors once the ban is lifted.

"We are adamant that the president continues to undermine the genuine efforts of small black-owned businesses in the township who are trying to support their families and those of their workers," he said.

Three strikes for the wine industry

CEO of Agri Western Cape, Jannie Strydom, said the wine industry can't afford the extension of the ban.

"The wine industry, a major role player in the Western Cape's and the country's economy, has already suffered significant financial and job losses during the two previous bans on alcohol sales in 2020 and more jobs tied to the wine value chain are being compromised," said Strydom in a statement.

He added that although Agri Western Cape understands that the health care system is under pressure, the sector was getting the short end of the stick because of public behaviour around alcohol.

"Since the announcement of the national lockdown in March 2020, government has had plenty of time to prepare for a possible second wave of infections.

"It is irrational that an important job creating and foreign exchange earning industry has to bear the brunt of the regulations," he said.

Source: News24

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