The alcohol industry on Sunday implored President Cyril Rampahosa and members of the National Coronavirus Command Council to reconsider imposing an alcohol ban.
This follows ahead of Ramaphosa’s family meeting, set to take place at 8pm on Sunday.
Impact of alcohol ban
Boost illicit trade
As per the open letter, the alcohol industry states its support for the call to save lives during the third wave currently decimating South Africa’s healthcare system.
However, “the industry is gravely worried about the long-term economic impact”, given the previous bans and the rise in illicit trade.
The industry warns that a total ban would encourage further growth of illicit trade.
The industry also compiled a list of recommendations pertaining to gatherings, social distancing protocols and the sale of alcohol.
Sale of alcohol
The industry proposes the sale of alcohol for off-site consumption should remain as is – from Monday to Thursday between 10am and 6pm.
Registered wineries, microbreweries and distilleries should be allowed to continue at current level restrictions. The industry also supports the call for on-site consumption to be allowed at public establishments.
In addition, a total alcohol ban could result in people flocking from Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West to Gauteng during a time when inter-provincial travel should be kept to a minimum.
A fourth alcohol ban “would cause irreparable damage to small and medium-sized business”, the industry said.
Further to this, the Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) said government should focus on interventions to protect citizens against Covid-19, instead of risking “desperately needed jobs and livelihoods”.
“Our country does not have the option of another hard lockdown, including another alcohol ban”, Basa said in an open letter to the president.
More than 7 400 jobs were lost in the sector during the three previous alcohol bans, while the sector lost R14.2 billion in lost sales revenue and more than R7.8 billion loss in taxes and excise duties.
“Another ban will offer a severe blow to thousands of small businesses still trying to get back on their feet from the previous bans, resulting in even more job losses, business closures and loss in revenue for the national fiscus.”
Alcohol ban alternatives
Instead of implementing another full ban on alcohol sales, Basa suggests halting all large gatherings and encouraging liquor establishments to implement safety protocols.
Developing a click-and-collect platform for alcohol purchases was also suggested, along with adopting a zero-tolerance policy for liquor establishments found breaking the law.
Basa called on everyone to “play their part when it comes to employing non-pharmaceutical measures while we await the mass roll-out of vaccines”.
“Continue social distancing, avoid gathering in large groups, wear masks in public and drink alcohol responsibly”.