Hendri Pelser
3 minute read
16 Jan 2021
3:19 pm

Liquor traders’ plea to Ramaphosa: ‘End booze ban now’

Hendri Pelser

The traders said while they supported government’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, they “fully support” SAB’s court action against the alcohol sales ban.

A man walks past a closed Tops liquor store in Centurion after the reinstatement of level 3 lockdown regulations, 29 December 2020, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Liquor traders have called directly on President Cyril Ramaphosa to meet with the industry and end the current ban on alcohol sales.

In a statement on Saturday, the group said the industry is being decimated and that a continued ban will spell ruin to businesses and put at least 250,000 jobs in jeopardy.

The statement by the Liquor Traders Formation comes a day after South African Breweries (SAB) announced the firm is cancelling another R2.5 billion of investments earmarked for 2021.

The firm is also taking government to court to have the alcohol sales ban overturned.

The traders said while they supported government’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, they “fully support” SAB’s court action against the alcohol sales ban.

The current ban on the sale of alcohol was implemented on 28 December last year and was initially set to expire on 15 January this year. It was implemented in order to decrease the number of hospital trauma cases resulting from alcohol abuse during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, in his address to the nation on Monday 11 January, Ramaphosa announced that prohibition would remain in place.

He did not give any indication of when the ban may be lifted, leaving the industry in limbo.

‘Financial ruin’

The liquor traders are asking that the ban be lifted for off-site consumption, for taverns and shebeens to receive R20,000 per outlet in financial assistance, and a moratorium on liquor license fees for the rest of the year.

“The continued ban on alcohol sales continues to wreak havoc in the sector and looks set to condemn thousands of livelihoods into poverty whilst the future of taverns remains in doubt,” the traders said in a statement.

“The third and current alcohol ban seems to be the surest way yet that a death knell has indeed been pronounced on the tavern sector. We do not see how we can recover or let alone come back from this ban.”

The Formation states that if the sector was to remain unable to operate, the livelihoods of 250,000 employees are in direct danger.

Said Formation Convener, Lucky Ntimane: “The alcohol industry has already lost an estimated R25 billion and counting due to the three (alcohol sale) bans it had to endure and if status quo remains we are on course to shed record number of jobs in a sector that has always been known to create and sustain livelihoods.”

Court challenge

On Friday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) also entered into the fray, calling the ban “economically crippling”.

“It is abundantly clear that this ill-thought ban is having devastating economic consequences for South Africa,” said Dean Macpherson, the DA’s shadow minister of trade, industry and competition.

The comments come as SAB prepares to challenge the blanket ban of alcohol sales in court.

In an earlier statement, the multi-national brewer said it “believes that any ban, including the current one goes far beyond what is reasonable and necessary to contain the spread of the virus and unlawfully restricts various rights that are enshrined and protected by our constitution.

“These include the right to freedom of trade, the right to human dignity, privacy, and the right to bodily and psychological integrity.

“Challenging the constitutionality of the ban, which removes the South African public’s right as adults to responsibly consume a beer safely in the privacy of their own homes, is an integral part of SAB’s action.”

SAB said the damage the ban has had on the country’s economy and the “impact on the alcohol value chain” is “disproportional and unlawful”.

The company said it had made recommendations to government, which were ignored. These included allowing for off-premises consumption and limiting trading days and hours.

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