Rumours of a potential restriction or ban on alcohol sales has the Liquor Traders Formation seeing red.
The rumours come on the back of the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) reportedly telling the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to move the country to a higher lockdown alert level before the Easter holidays.
It is widely expected that the Easter break will facilitate another Covid-19 wave as people travel across the country and congregate in groups for social and religious gatherings.
In a scathing statement on Saturday, the Liquor Traders Formation convener, Lucky Ntimane, said the “talk of yet another ban by government is really a slap in the face of a sector that hasn’t recovered from the previous three bans”.
During the second wave in December, a number of restrictions were implemented just before the New Year festivities, including a blanket ban on all alcohol sales under level 3 regulations.
Under level 1 normal alcohol trade is allowed. Under level 2, off-site sales are only allowed from Mondays to Thursdays between 9am and 5pm. On-site consumption is allowed within curfew hours.
Importantly, no official indication on a higher lockdown level – or alcohol ban – has been issued by government.
In a post Cabinet meeting briefing on Thursday, the Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said while the NCCC was currently deliberating how to approach the Easter period, she could not “pre-empt” any decisions.
“When the time is right, we all know as South Africans that the president will convene a ‘family meeting’ and communicate those decisions,” Ntshavheni said.
‘No justification for a ban’
Ntimane said there was a “traumatic relationship” between government” and black-owned small businesses operating in the townships.
“The alcohol industry finds itself with a possibility of a fourth ban with almost 133 days lost trading days and thousands of jobs lost in the process and a fair amount of liquor traders out of business for good.
“There could never be a reason to justify a fourth ban.”
Ntimane also highlighted the lack of consultation between government and the alcohol sector that he represents, adding that “deafening silence” from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition has been “equally shocking”.
“Liquor traders reject the notion that seeks to cast the availability of alcohol through legal channels as problematic and exposes the President single issue approach of thinking that banning alcohol will somehow magically allow the country to deal with the Covid-19 more efficiently,” Ntimane said.
“The President continues to miss the point and he shocks himself into action rather than providing leadership that enables the economy to function efficiently as we all put our hands on deck to confront the Covid-19 pandemic.”