Easing of lockdown restrictions on the cards
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to ease some lockdown restrictions and announce economic assistance for businesses hit by the looting when he addresses the nation tonight.
His address, following a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) today, comes as the Covid third wave shows signs of easing.
The alcohol and hospitality industries are confident the president will lift the booze ban and allow leisure travel across Gauteng borders.
Other lockdown restrictions reimposed four weeks ago include at 9pm-4am curfew and a ban on all social gatherings.
Rosemary Anderson, chair of Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa), said the association was "positive" Ramaphosa would ease the travel and booze bans to help the economy. The bans had put the hospitality industry "into the critical care section of an ICU".
"Without lifting the alcohol ban most restaurants will no longer be financially viable, as big portions of profits come from alcohol sales," she said. "Gauteng's travel ban has a dire effect on other provinces.
"Between 45% and 75% of business in other provinces come from Gauteng. Couple the economic effect with the unrest and an already dire situation becomes critical."
The latest ban on the sale of alcohol has jeopardised the livelihoods of 200,000 tavern workers and robbed SA of R1.5bn in revenue, the industry says.
Lucky Ntimane, convener of the National Liquor Traders Council, said yesterday that the council strongly believed the ban would be lifted, given the economic impact it has had.
"The alcohol industry in its entire value chain, which includes restaurants, hotels, taverns and pubs, creates employment for 1-million people. South Africa's 40,000 taverns employ 200,000 people, who because they are not formally employed, do not qualify for government relief aid.
"Couple the economic effects of the ban, which includes Sars [the South African Revenue Service] not receiving R1.5bn in revenue, with the latest violence, and the government will be forced to lift the ban to kick-start the economy."
He said given that R500m worth of alcohol was stolen in the looting, there was no need to continue with the ban.
"In the space of a week of looting, more booze is circulating illicitly in society than what would be if alcohol could be sold legally."
Ntimane said that though the council strongly believed the ban would be lifted, the effects would be felt for months to come.
"Looking at the number of alcohol bans since March 2020 until today, those in this sector have been banned from trading for a collective 24 weeks, with zero support from government."
He said the council wanted the removal of trade, industry & competition minister Ebrahim Patel after he failed to attend a meeting to discuss the alcohol ban that he had called himself for 10am yesterday.
The Sunday Times has seen the invitation that was sent on Friday night to industry stakeholders, with the subject line: "Urgent meeting between the liquor industry task team and Minister Ebrahim Patel".
The meeting notice states Patel wants to hear industry views on the liquor restrictions "with due regard to the fact that there is a NCCC meeting on Sunday 25 July".
Patel's spokesperson Sidwell Medupe failed to respond to requests for comment.
Sibani Mngadi, chair of Salba, said he also strongly believed the ban would be lifted.
"Take the recent developments, including the extent of the looting, that R500m of alcohol is circulating in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal illicitly, the fact that the third wave is largely peaking, and couple it with the economic impact of the ban, then it looks like the ban will be lifted."
He said the industry was to have paid Sars R1.5bn in revenue for July.
"Our request to Sars with the ban was to delay the payment. In August, Sars was to receive R3bn in revenue from the sector. If the ban is not lifted Sars will be out of pocket by R3bn," Mngadi said.
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