Charles Cilliers
3 minute read
26 Mar 2020
1:12 pm

EFF threatens to enforce Covid-19 shutdown of businesses, including SAB

Charles Cilliers

The EFF has said it intends to pay 'nice special visits' to businesses not observing regulations for shutting down most of the country's activities.

Members of the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) party join a party protest against the national power utility Eskom, in Johannesburg, South Africa, 28 February 2020. Picture: EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK

On the party’s official Twitter account on Thursday, the EFF called on its branches and members to “visit” SA Breweries (SAB) facilities throughout South Africa to ensure they would be shut down during the 21-day lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus and Covid-19 infections.

The party said SAB was not providing an essential service and should therefore shut down completely in observance of the 21 days announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa starting on Friday.

The party further called on all employees throughout the company being “forced” to work during the lockdown to provide them with their companies’ details so that the EFF could “give them a Nice Special Visit”.

The party has in the past been known for its protests at various businesses and made headlines in 2018 for trashing and looting H&M stores for an advert that caused outrage.

In a tweet on Wednesday, EFF leader Julius Malema said it was “greedy nonsense” that SAB was apparently making people work through the shutdown. He agreed with the view that alcohol should not be an “essential good”  – even though it is the chief ingredient in hand sanitiser. The alcohol industry has agreed to produce pure alcohol for hand sanitiser, with SAB reportedly among those involved.

Alcohol producers have pledged to donate large amounts of pure alcohol (at 96%) to make hand sanitisers.

Distell, one of the continent’s biggest alcoholic beverage producers, announced on Thursday that it would begin making hand sanitisers and other hygienic products at its production facilities as part of its efforts to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The company committed to producing at least 100,000 litres of alcohol, which would be used to produce sanitisers and other sanitary products. Sanitisers would then be distributed for free to vulnerable communities across South Africa as “a way to encourage good hygiene practices”, said CEO Richard Rushton.

“The company will work closely with government to identify these communities, and support the roll-out of the sanitisers as there was an acute shortage of pure alcohol to produce hand and surface sanitisers, which have been desperately needed in hospitals and households,” added Rushton.

“We fully understand that our position as a leading player in the alcoholic beverages industry comes with a societal obligation. We want communities to benefit from our presence and we are determined to rise to the challenge,” he said.

In government’s published state of disaster guidelines, food, beverages and essential products manufacturing and processing facilities have been included among the industries that can (and probably must) continue during the shutdown.

Government has made it clear, though, that alcoholic beverages cannot be sold during the lockdown, and no one will be allowed to travel with any alcoholic beverage either, nor will any deliveries be allowed.

On Monday, Ramaphosa announced that the nationwide lockdown was intended to save lives, even though it would come at a heavy cost to the economy.

“Our fundamental task is to curb the rapid spread of the disease. We must do everything to delay the spread of the infection.”

People will be allowed to go out only in particular circumstances, including for medical care and to do essential shopping.

He said the SA National Defence Force would be deployed to support the police.

The focus would be on high-density and high-risk areas.

Last week, Malema lent his support to Ramaphosa in Cape Town while calling on businesses not to try to maximise profits during the crisis.

He said the only way hospitals would avoid being “nationalised” during the crisis was if they fully cooperated with the health minister and give beds for sick people when needed.

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