Prioritising lives and livelihoods have become one and the same in many aspects as South Africa continues to brace itself for a third wave of Covid-19 infections.
This is the sentiment voiced by South African Breweries (SAB) corporate affairs vice-president Zoleka Lisa.
“The truth is the beer industry is still in recovery from the devastation wrought by 19 weeks of no trade,” Lisa said.
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Last year, R36.3 billion in sales revenue was lost and more than 200,000 jobs shed.
Lisa has called for “a more transparent and cooperative environment for the alcohol industry to support the government” in fighting Covid-19, which means focusing on both lives and livelihoods.
Despite recommendations made to the government how to mitigate Covid-19 third wave concerns, Lisa said the industry was at a loss how it could further assist.
“Enforcing further restrictions on trade is simply not an option and will put us back on the path to destruction.”
Full trade in the alcohol industry has only resumed for two full months, which Lisa said meant it was “too early to feel any economic recovery”.
She said an interruption in sales, especially on Fridays and Saturdays when more than half of the sales are made, would put thousands of small businesses “at a serious disadvantage”.
Many of these businesses are only just starting to recover from the 2020 bans “will not survive another wave of restrictions”, she said.
Should another ban take place, Lisa has pleaded with the authorities es to give the industry “a rational reason for signing this veritable death warrant”.
“To date, off-site liquor traders are yet to be provided with a rationale by the government as to why they are treated unjustly and with patent unfairness when it comes to restrictions in trading hours and days in comparison to on-site traders.”
She added that off-site traders, who account for 30% of liquor volume sales, are in fact the “safest way to purchase alcohol from a Covid-19 protocol perspective”, but when it came to the reinstatement of “draconian regulations”, the industry was not consulted.
“Limiting mobility and mass gatherings were a proven mitigator. Now it seems the government is quick to buckle to pressure put on them by the very people they are trying to protect.
“Don’t limit trade, limit movement like hundreds of other countries around the world do.”