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Alcohol industry welcomes call not to ban sales as Covid-19 third wave takes hold


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Alcohol industry welcomes call not to ban sales as Covid-19 third wave takes hold

31st May 2021

By: Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer


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The South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) says it welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision not to ban alcohol sales with the current tightening of restrictions as Covid-19 infections surge in the third wave.

Ramaphosa addressed the nation on May 30, announcing a move to Alert Level 2 restrictions as a means to slow the spread of the virus.


Salba chairperson Sibani Mngadi says the decision to keep the alcohol trading environment open under the licence conditions and limitations of the curfew is welcome as taverns, bars and restaurants are a critical part of the tourism business, which needs assistance to recover.

Salba also notes that it does not support restrictions on alcohol sales while alternative, effective and targeted interventions are available.


Restrictions on the legal sale of alcohol are neither an effective nor sustainable measure to reduce pressure on the public health system, it states.

The Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) says the devastating impact of previous bans on alcohol resulted in the loss of more than 7 400 beer-industry jobs, R14.2-billion in lost sales revenue and more than a R7.8-billion loss in taxes and excise duties.

In a statement, Salba says the alcohol industry remains committed to principles of mutual public accountability, evidence-based methods and transparency with data and reporting.

According to the organisation, the alcohol industry plays an important role as an engine of economic growth in South Africa, while smaller players in the value chain have been particularly vulnerable.

Salba states that the destructive economic effects of previous alcohol bans led to a R36-billion loss in sales revenue for the industry and R29-billion in tax revenue, putting at least 200 200 jobs at risk.


Basa says it, along with the broader alcohol industry, has introduced a range of interventions as its commitment to slowing infection rates, including halting all sponsored events that would result in large gatherings.

Also, the organisation says it is developing click-and-collect platforms where customers can place orders by SMS and then pick up their alcohol purchases at a designated time for consumption at home, to prevent overcrowding at outlets.

The organisation is also promoting the toll-free Consumer Goods Council hotline (0800 014 856), through which citizens can call to report incidents of criminality linked to the sale and consumption of alcohol and to report any breaches of Covid-19 regulations at establishments.

Further, Basa has funded the placement of 500 patrollers and former reservists in 50 police stations across South Africa to support the South African Police Service with visible enforcement on the ground this year.

This programme was initially implemented in December with the placement of 1 000 patrollers through community policing forums for the festive season.

Basa also states that it is adopting zero tolerance towards establishments found breaking the law, with its members cutting off the supply of alcohol to establishments whose licences have been revoked.


Meanwhile, Salba points out that the illicit alcohol market has grown as a “direct consequence of the alcohol bans”, with illicit alcohol sales, by volume, having overtaken the entire combined wine and cider sectors and having cost the fiscus about R11.3-billion.

As a result of almost 20 weeks of alcohol bans since the onset of Covid-19, the illicit alcohol trade now accounts for 20% of the alcohol market by volume, growing at a compound yearly rate of 17% since 2017, according to research by Euromonitor.

National Liquor Traders Council convener Lucky Ntimane says the illicit alcohol trade has grown like an aggressive cancer under cover of the alcohol bans, which forced consumers to buy from previously unheard-of sources, while the legal industry was shut down by the government.

“This is going to be a massive headache for our law enforcement agencies for years to come. Illicit traders are now embedded in communities, with sophisticated supply and distribution networks. They are not going anywhere, even when all the restrictions on the alcohol trade are over,” he says.

Salba CEO Kurt Moore says the proposed vaccine procurement and rollout targets remain the ultimate solution to restrictions so that the economy can move toward recovery.

“We are eager to see the government step up the vaccination programme. The industry has repeatedly said it is willing to provide whatever logistical assistance the government requires to achieve this huge operational undertaking,” he says.

“With compliance fatigue creeping in as the third wave of Covid-19 accelerates, and a huge job to be done to encourage people to get vaccinated, we really need to work together again to communicate effectively and mobilise the whole of society to defeat Covid-19,” says Ntimane.


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