Citizen Reporter
3 minute read
23 Jul 2021
4:44 pm

Lift ban on Gauteng travel and alcohol sales to save jobs, tourism body pleads

Citizen Reporter

The current level 4 extension is set to end at midnight on Sunday, unless President Cyril Ramaphosa announces another one.

Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) has called on government to lift the current restrictions on interprovincial travel and alcohol sales.

Interprovincial travel in and out of Gauteng is prohibited, as well as alcohol sales for on-site and off-site consumption under alert Level 4 lockdown.

ALSO READ: ‘We are on our knees’: Liquor traders beg Ramaphosa to lift alcohol ban

Almost four weeks ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa moved to South Africa to level 4 for 14 days due to Covid-19 cases rapidly increasing, with Gauteng being the epicentre in the third wave.

However, level 4 was then extended for another 14 days, with the president indicating it was too early to see the impact of the two-week lockdown on the infection numbers as the healthcare sector battled with the Delta variant.

Major financial losses

Now with the current level 4 extension set to end at midnight on Sunday, 25 July, unless Ramaphosa announces another one, TBCSA chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa has called on the president to lift the ban on interprovincial travel to Gauteng and alcohol sales.

In a statement, Tshivhengwa said the tourism and hospitality sector had suffered “major financial losses” under the current restrictions.

“These losses may result in further job cuts if the current restrictions on Gauteng interprovincial travel and alcohol ban are not lifted.

“Major hotel groups have either closed all or some of their properties due to these restrictions. Airlines have grounded their fleet, BnBs are closed, some branches of car rentals are closed, and entrepreneurs in township and rural tourism are on their knees,” he said.

Jobs at risk

Tshivhengwa reiterated that the continuation of the restrictions would see more people lose their jobs, resulting in an increase of unemployment in South Africa.

“With approximately 60% of domestic travellers being from Gauteng and given that the province is the central connective point of the country, travellers, and commuters transit through when exploring surrounding provinces.

“This means that the entire tourism economy in the country is negatively affected. In the aviation sub-sector, close to 40% of travel is impacted as the OR Tambo International Airport accounts for over a third of annual domestic travel”, he further said.

He continued to say: “In addition to the travel ban, the harsh advance level 4 lockdown regulations include an alcohol sale ban. Hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses are not allowed to serve alcohol, which has resulted in many restaurants closing their doors due businesses unable to breakeven. This has put thousands of employees in this sector at risk of losing their jobs. We call on government to lift the alcohol ban and allow responsible trading by these entities to continue to sustain businesses and livelihoods.”

Tshivhengwa alsocalled on government to allow “a reasonable amount of people to attend events”.

“The events, conferencing, exhibition and related businesses have also not been able to meaningfully resume operations since the beginning of the lockdown. This has resulted in many jobs along the value chain being lost and many small businesses closing.”

He further indicated that the lockdowns had been exacerbated by the rampant looting and violent unrest in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, which has caused damage to infrastructure and businesses.

SAB loses court case

Meanwhile, the Western Cape High Court on Thursday dismissed South African Breweries’ (SAB’s) urgent application to have the alcohol sales ban overturned, TimesLive reported.

According to SAB, this was the last resort to protect their employees, customers, suppliers and the livelihoods the brewery supports.

The brewer had also argued that there was no scientific link showing that the consumption of alcohol raised the risk of contracting Covid-19, especially if alcohol is consumed safely and responsibly by citizens in the comfort of their homes.

This is not the first time SAB has taken the government to court over the ban on alcohol sales.