Molefe Seeletsa
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
17 Jul 2020
3:07 pm

Liquor traders demand more than R680m in relief funds for taverns, shebeens

Molefe Seeletsa

The council seeks compensation for loss of income due to the alcohol ban.

A closed bottle store in Edenvale, 13 July 2020 after alcohol sales were abruptly stopped by President Ramaphosa as part of government's fight against Covid-19. Picture: Neil McCartney

In April, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a R500-billion support package to help South African businesses and citizens during the Covid-19 pandemic, but the alcohol industry have since expressed their concerns of a lack funding from government despite its contribution to the economy.

This follows Ramaphosa’s announcement that the sale and distribution of alcohol has been banned, although the industry was only reopened almost two months ago.

The matter prompted a response from the National Liquor Traders Council (NLTC) saying it was disappointed with the government’s decision to reinstate the prohibition of the sale of alcohol with immediate effect.

READ MORE: Alcohol sales banned with immediate effect – Ramaphosa

“Government’s decision has serious economic consequences, placing hundreds of thousands of livelihoods at risk. The hardest-hit will be the significant number of smaller retailers and taverners.”

NLTC argued that the alcohol industry was given no warning about the ban, nor an opportunity to consult with the National Coronavirus Command Centre (NCCC) before a decision was made and no consideration was given to the immediate logistical difficulties it poses for both suppliers, distributors and retailers alike.

“The industry complied with all the commitments agreed with government ahead of the reopening of the supply chain on 1 June to enable a safe environment for the sale of alcohol. Indeed, there have been no instances where taverns have not complied with the regulations.”

On Friday, NLTC’s national convener, Lucky Ntimane said the council, which represented more than 34,000 tavern owners and shebeen permit holders, was calling on government to establish a once-off R20,000 support package for owners as a form of compensation for loss of income due to the ban.

“We want the president to consider a R20,000 once-off payment to tavern owners,” he said.

Ntimane said the council was also demanding a moratorium on licence fees for 24-months, where owners pay between R5,000 to R10,000 on the fees, while he added that they wanted government to return 75% of their fees.

“We are being reasonable, otherwise we would have asked for 100%.

“This is the least we can do as means to allow those traders lucky enough to still be operating a breathing room to recover from the government-induced economic ruin they are experiencing and will surely experience in years to come,” he told The Citizen.

ALSO READ: Industry had no warning on new alcohol ban, R18bn already down the drain

Ntimane added that “average” taverns and shebeens had lost more than R200,000 since lockdown started, which owners would need to recover over the coming years.

“Those lucky enough, it can be anything between three to five years coupled with bad credit records and judgments against their names,” he stated.

He stated that the owners should not be overlooked as their industry contributed approximately 6% to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The national convener further said the council sought an urgent meeting with the president to discuss the matter going forward.

“Surely he cannot ignore a sector that contributes over 6% of the economy,” Ntimane concluded.

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