Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has warned President Cyril Ramaphosa the new booze ban may inflict wounds on the economy and kill jobs – and drive the sale of alcohol “underground”.
Winde was responding to the president’s announcement to the nation last night in which he announced an immediate new booze ban, a night-time curfew and the compulsory wearing of masks.
On Monday, the premier issued a warning about dire impacts, saying: “The reality is that every single province in South Africa is now also facing a catastrophic unemployment pandemic. Millions of people are going to lose their jobs, if they haven’t already.
“The consequences of this jobs crisis are severe. It is causing a humanitarian crisis that will impact our poorest and most vulnerable residents. This has very real health consequence and it will also cost lives.”
On alcohol in particular, Winde said during the initial “lockdown” and the subsequent alert Level 4, when alcohol sales were initially banned, the Western Cape saw a marked decrease in the number of murders in the province – particularly stabbings – and alcohol-related hospital admissions.
“However, after sales were unbanned on 1 June, we saw an almost immediate and notable increase in the number of murders and a surge in trauma admissions again.
“This has put additional strain on our healthcare system, especially in our high care and ICU units where we are trying to save the lives of those people infected with Covid-19.”
Winde agreed with Ramaphosa on the harm that alcohol causes – that “the link between alcohol and violence is well established and a ban on alcohol sales may result in a reduction in incidents of murder, gender-based violence and trauma events such as road accidents, and assaults, and for this reason can have an immediate impact on hospital capacity”.
But he warned about the complete and sudden booze ban.
“However, this is a blunt mechanism that will negatively impact the Western Cape economy and the agri-processing sector and will result in job losses across the province. It will also push the sale of alcohol ‘underground’, with less control over registered sales by our liquor authority.”
He continued: “To put it simply, while this may help in the short term, the problem is not going to go away and a long-term ban is not feasible.”
Winde said the Western Cape government had already launched an innovative project to lead “long-term behaviour change” around alcohol.
He would raise this personally with the president, and hoped the Western Cape could serve as a pilot for the whole of South Africa.
On the continued ban on domestic tourism, Winde said: “The tourism sector, which employs over 200 000 people in the Western Cape [direct and indirect] has been dealt a severe blow, without proper scientific evidence or reasoning to support it being excluded.”
He said there was sufficient evidence “leisure tourism accommodation that can open safely, following proper safety protocols, should be allowed to do so.
“We need to view the tourism sector as a partner in our Covid-19 pandemic, and work with them to adapt to this new normal. The failure to do this will likely see the sector decimated, with more than 50% of jobs being lost. The knock-on-effect for the overall Western Cape economy will be severe.
“I will be raising this concern directly with the president as a matter of urgency, and the Western Cape government will continue to push for the safe reopening of the tourism sector.”
On mask-wearing, Winde was in agreement with Ramaphosa, saying: “We welcome the stricter regulations around mask-wearing announced by the president. Our own behavioral science research and medical advice is that mask-wearing remains one of the most effective measures in slowing the spread of the virus.
“However, wearing a mask is not natural human behaviour and it is difficult to get used to. These additional regulations will therefore make sure that mask-wearing becomes part of the ‘new normal’ that we are faced within the Western Cape and South Africa.”