Pleas for the president: Don't shut us down, say alcohol, tourism industries

'We cannot afford to lose jobs again,' the industries say before President Cyril Ramaphosa's address on Monday night

14 December 2020 - 15:45 By nonkululeko njilo
The liquor and tourism industries have made impassioned pleas to President Cyril Ramaphosa before his address to the nation on Monday night.
The liquor and tourism industries have made impassioned pleas to President Cyril Ramaphosa before his address to the nation on Monday night.
Image: GCIS

The alcohol and tourism industries have made an impassioned plea to President Cyril Ramaphosa not to close them down or impose further restrictions on them.

The pleas come ahead of a scheduled address on Monday night, just days after the country officially entered into a second wave of Covid-19 infections. 

The industries have vowed to adopt a “no-nonsense” approach during the festive season in a bid to safeguard lives, protect 415,000 jobs and continue to support more than a million people who depend on them for survival.

“The previous alcohol bans and prolonged restrictions on the trade of alcohol saw an estimated 7,400 jobs lost, R14.2bn in lost sales revenue and more than R7.4bn loss in taxes and excise duties in the beer industry alone,” said Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) CEO Patricia Pillay.

“The craft brewery sector was particularly hard hit, with 30% of breweries shutting their doors and those that managed to stay open being forced to retrench staff, resulting in hundreds of job losses.  

“Those businesses that managed to survive can simply not afford another ban or further trade restrictions.”

Pillay was speaking during an event on Monday where she and other speakers expressed concern at what the Ramaphosa would say.

“We are all nervous ... It is December. In January our kids go to school. We need to ensure they are catered for. We need to ensure we keep working,” she said.

SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona described the past few months as “gruelling”, as he cited job and revenue losses.

Ntshona said that irrespective of what Ramaphosa would say, it was important to understand that the industry was governed by risk-adjusted strategy and to find balance.

He said the industry was “under pressure” to recover as it was an economic multiplier. It would take about three years for the tourism industry to recover fully and see the gains it made in 2019, Ntshona said.

Meanwhile, Heidi Bartis, the corporate affairs manager at South African Breweries, echoed similar sentiments. She urged people to take the necessary precautions to remain safe during the pandemic.

“We are calling upon our customers to please adhere to Covid-19 restrictions. We have to work together. This is serious. We cannot afford to lose jobs any more. We cannot afford to impact livelihoods any more,” said Bartis.

Lucky Ntimane, convener of the Liquor Traders Association of SA, also took the opportunity to make a plea to Ramaphosa before his address.

“Mr President, we understand yours is not an easy task tonight. We understand that you have to make sure you navigate the country out of this difficult period. We understand that you are probably having sleepless nights, as much as we are as liquor traders. But we are confident, based on the leadership you have shown since March to where we are, that yours will be the right decision.

“But also important to say is that there are livelihoods at stake, as much as there are lives at stake. It is unfortunately your task to balance the two. But we remain hopeful that the industry that has shown commitment and support will not be left in the lurch after your speech tonight, but it will be further supported by being allowed to trade beyond the festive season,” said Ntimane. 

Basa members said they had partnered with other roleplayers and launched a number of click-and-collect platforms that allow customers to place their orders online or via SMS and pick up their purchases at a designated time. In this way, they would minimise crowds at various outlets. 

The association said it would also roll out 50,000 educational posters to establishments to ensure they were compliant. It also launched oversight visits, which would continue over the festive season.

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