The South African alcohol industry has raised concerns over a possible liquor ban or restricted sales ahead of the Easter long weekend, insisting on evidence to support the argument that such regulations would prevent a third Covid-19 wave.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to hold deliberations with provincial premiers on Monday, after which the cabinet will make a final decision.
The liquor industry says it wants reasons for any plan to curb alcohol sales, including access to any scientific information that justifies the decision from the ministerial advisory council (MAC) on Covid-19 and/or any other source.
“The only outcomes the country can expect from the decisions to increase gatherings and ban alcohol sales is the hastening of the onset of the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic while further collapsing the struggling economy,” SA Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA) chairperson Sibani Mngadi said.
The only outcomes the country can expect from the decisions to increase gatherings and ban alcohol sales is the hastening of the onset of the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic while further collapsing the struggling economy
Mngadi urged the MAC to distance itself from these “clearly unscientific decisions”.
“The industry proposal to government through the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) was to reduce the size of gatherings to minimise the rate of infection.
“The second proposal from Nedlac was to keep most business sectors open to support economic recovery,” Mngadi said.
The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that the government was considering allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 5,000 people and indoor gatherings of up to 1,000 to accommodate religious gatherings over the coming Easter weekend.
Two senior sources privy to discussions that took place in the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) this past week told the paper that government was also considering restricting or barring alcohol sales over Easter and banning interprovincial travel to limit the movement of people between provinces.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize told the Sunday Times the government was discussing how to contain infection risks over Easter while accommodating churches.
“There are debates about issues of safety going into Easter. The worry is if we become complacent and there are gatherings in overcrowded spaces where safety regulations are not followed, that will create a situation whereby the next wave [of Covid-19 infections] or clusters can arise,” he said.
The worry is if we become complacent and there are gatherings in overcrowded spaces where safety regulations are not followed, that will create a situation whereby the next wave
“On the other hand, we have churches who have been pleading that there have been no services and they do not want to miss Easter for the second time, so we have to balance those factors. A decision has not been made. It is a difficult one.”
Mngadi said if the reports were true, the government would be going “directly against Nedlac proposals by yet again shutting down the alcohol sector impacting on its R173bn contribution to the GDP of the country”.
According to the alcohol industry, the tax revenue loss (excluding excise) to the government fiscus from the value chain arising from the previous bans amounted to R29.3bn (equivalent to 2.3% of tax revenue), and direct excise tax revenue lost across the nation was R8.7bn (equal to 21.2% of excise revenue).
“Job losses as a result of these unjustified bans are exceptionally damaging to society and the economy.
“More than 200,200 jobs, equivalent to 1.22% of national jobs in the informal and formal sectors, are under threat due to the bans,” Mngadi said.