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Alcohol vendors lose ‘hundreds of millions of rand’ to looting, says liquor industry

Several organisations have pleaded with President Cyril Ramaphosa to ‘urgently’ lift the booze ban to ‘prevent a total collapse of the industry’

12 July 2021 - 17:57 By TimesLIVE
Police officers inspect the aftermath of looting in Durban on July 11 2021.
Police officers inspect the aftermath of looting in Durban on July 11 2021.

Looting of alcohol is pushing already hard-hit businesses further into crisis, liquor traders said in a joint statement on Monday afternoon as they pleaded with President Cyril Ramphosa to lift the ongoing booze ban.

“With liquor outlets increasingly becoming the target of looting and rioting sweeping across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the alcohol industry urgently calls on government to lift the current alcohol ban to prevent a total collapse of the industry and a further boost to the illicit industry,” the traders said.

The statement was issued by organisations including the Beer Association of SA (Basa), the Liquor Traders Association of South Africa (LTASA), the National Liquor Traders (NLT), the SA Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba) and Vinpro

Sean Robinson, LTASA chairperson, said: “Liquor stores have definitely been targeted by looters and many of our members, who are already experiencing crippling damage to cash flow as a result of the ban, have lost their entire stores’ stock running into hundreds of millions of rand.

“It’s deeply troubling, and the extended ban only increases the risk of this criminal behaviour and will result in further devastating losses.

The illicit alcohol marked market is in danger of becoming a permanent feature of the post-pandemic economy.
Lucky Ntimane, NLT

Lucky Ntimane, convener of the NLT, said government’s action has fuelled the illicit alcohol market, which is “in danger of becoming a permanent feature of the post-pandemic economy”.

Ntimane said tavern owners robbed of their stock would be unable to trade when and if the ban was lifted.

“The last 14-day ban put more than 4,600 jobs at risk. More than 233,500 jobs are now on the line due to the prohibition measures. Their livelihoods are smashed, and the township economy, where much of the looting has occurred, has been shattered,” he said.

Salba chairperson Sibani Mngadi said even before the ban was extended on Sunday night, there were reports of stock being stolen at warehouses and retail premises in Pretoria, Boksburg, Durban and Bloemfontein.

“With political unrest rampant in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, this has become a firestorm. There is no doubt the targeting of liquor stores by the looters is due to the high demand for alcohol as a result of the ban on sales,” said Mngadi.

Vinpro MD Rico Basson said the liquor industry was “on the edge of a cliff, with several smaller players already over the edge”.

“The livelihoods of thousands of employees are being irreparably endangered while SA — the only country in which liquor sales have been banned without financial assistance forthcoming from the national government — lags behind the world in the vaccine rollout.

“Government’s failure to both adequately prepare health facilities for possible dangerous additional waves and to administer an adequate and efficient vaccination rollout cannot hold the alcohol industry at ransom any longer,” said Basson.