Alcohol industry concerned about possible sales ban over Easter

30 March 2021 - 16:12 By ernest mabuza
An alcohol industry body has submitted an urgent request for information government has used regarding another possible ban on the sale of booze. Stock photo.
An alcohol industry body has submitted an urgent request for information government has used regarding another possible ban on the sale of booze. Stock photo.

The SA Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba) has submitted an urgent request to cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and health minister Zweli Mkhize for the rationale behind a potential alcohol sales ban over Easter.

The association said on Tuesday this followed confirmation at an industry meeting with officials from the department of trade, industry and competition on Monday that the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) would recommend a ban on alcohol sales for up to 11 days, starting at the Easter weekend.

The department was not immediately available to comment on Salba’s statement nor verify if alcohol sales would be temporarily suspended.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation at 7.30pm on Tuesday evening on government’s latest response to the pandemic. The address will shed light on whether the NCCC recommendation was accepted. 

A tightening of lockdown restrictions may be used to slow an anticipated third wave of Covid-19 infections fuelled by gatherings over the long weekend.

Salba said it understood the NCCC wanted to increase the number of people allowed in a gathering from the current limit of 100 for indoors and 250 for outdoors for the same period.

The urgent request for information was made in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

Salba said it had given government until Wednesday to furnish this information, which the association would use to decide its next course of action.

“We hope government will be transparent and make this information available. We would like to understand what the rationale/evidence-based reasoning is behind an 11-day ban on alcohol sales while at the same time increasing the maximum number of people allowed at gatherings,” said Salba chairperson Sibani Mngadi.

Mngadi expressed concern that trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel failed to meet the industry to discuss an intended ban.

The department is responsible for licensing the manufacturing and distribution of alcohol in the country.

“We have had three bans totalling 19 weeks of lost trade days, a R36bn loss in sales revenue for the industry and R29bn loss in tax revenue for government since the start of the lockdown at this time last year.

“However, minister Patel has only found time on one occasion to meet with the industry to inform us of the third liquor ban. He has not responded to correspondence from organisations in the alcohol sector. We have instead been received by other ministers in the NCCC, but not him,” Mngadi said.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde said on Tuesday the province did not support a move to a level 2 lockdown because the move was not supported by the available provincial data and would undermine the provincial economy.

Winde said provincial health platform data showed there was a continued decline in Covid-19 case admissions and deaths in the Western Cape. 

“We are approaching the situation seen between the first and second waves, although we have not reached it yet.”

He said overall, the data demonstrated a health platform that had the capacity to respond to Covid-19.

Winde said the province was only now starting to see signs of a delicate economic recovery. He said Easter was important for domestic tourism and limiting demand now would result in more job losses.

“When comparing this concerning data with the current status of our health platform, it becomes clear that moving to alert level 2 at this stage would not achieve the balance we need to save lives and livelihoods in the Western Cape.”