Alcohol ‘not an essential service’, says Ramaphosa

By Matthew Savides

President Cyril Ramaphosa has emphatically denied a request from the Gauteng Liquor Forum to ease the restrictions on the sale of alcohol during the nationwide lockdown.

He said that the decision was taken to uphold the restrictions because of the dangers “associated” with the sale of alcohol.

A week ago the forum threatened to go the Constitutional Court over the restrictions, which they said would “gravely” affect the 20,000 micro and small businesses in Gauteng they represent.

The extension of the lockdown — in combination with the total ban on alcohol sales — would “most likely ruin” these businesses, the forum said.

Ramaphosa was initially given until Tuesday to respond, but asked for an extension until Friday.

In a letter to the forum, through the State Attorney, Ramaphosa denied the request, saying that the ban on alcohol sales was in line with the government’s measures to address the coronavirus pandemic.

The State Attorney said Ramaphosa, his cabinet and the National Command Council met this week to “consider the economic implications of the continued lockdown on SA”, including on township-based shebeens and taverns.

“During the discussions held this week, the National Command Council, cabinet and the president carefully considered inputs from all relevant sectors and experts in fields including financial, social, economic, scientific and medical. Having done so, the decision was taken not to ease the restrictions on the sale of alcohol during the lockdown,” the letter to the forum read.

It added, emphatically: “The sale of alcohol is self-evidently not an essential service. On this basis alone, it was considered that the sale of alcohol should not be permitted. The sale and consumption of alcohol also has proven links to an increase in violent crime, motor vehicle accidents, medical emergencies and results in full emergency rooms and hospitals.

“In the face of a pandemic such as Covid-19, the experience of the rest of the world has shown us that hospitals need to be prepared to receive and treat vast numbers of Covid-19 patients and to quarantine them from non-infected patients.

“Prohibiting the sale of alcohol is also aimed at ensuring compliance with the lockdown regulations.”

This is a developing story.

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