Trade body demands data for fourth SA alcohol ban

31st March, 2021 by Nicola Carruthers

A trade group is calling on the South African government to urgently provide evidence to back up an 11-day alcohol ban over Easter, which it warns could lead to the loss of more than 200,000 jobs.

South Africa

The South African government will introduce an 11-day ban on alcohol from this Friday

Earlier this week, trade body the South African Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba) said a new ban on alcohol in the country over Easter weekend (from Friday 2 April) could result in ‘irreversible damage’ to smaller businesses.

South Africa introduced a total ban on alcohol sales at the start of the pandemic, which lasted from 27 March to 1 June. The ban was brought back on 12 July but reversed a second time on 17 August. In mid-December, a third ban was put in place, which was lifted on 1 February.

Salba said the South African government and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) now plans to introduce an alcohol ban for 11 days, beginning this Friday.

Salba has submitted an urgent request to the government through the Promotion of Access to Information Act to provide the evidence used to decide a fourth ban on alcohol.

The trade group has given the government until today (31 March) to provide the information.

Furthermore, NCCC intends to increase the number of people allowed to gather from the current limitation of 100 for indoors and 250 for outdoors for the same period.

Salba said media reports suggest that the government is planning to increase the permitted size of gatherings by up to 1,000 indoors and 5,000 outdoors.

The proposed move goes against Salba’s recommendations on Covid-19 measures announced earlier this week in a bid to avoid a fresh ban on alcohol sales.

Salba recommended a reintroduction of the 11pm to 4am curfew, a 50% reduction on the number of people allowed to gather, and a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

Need for transparency

“We hope [the] government will be transparent and make this information available,” said Salba chairperson Sibani Mngadi.

“We would like to understand what the rationale/evidence-based reasoning is behind an 11-day ban of alcohol sales while at the same time increasing the maximum number of people allowed in a gathering.”

Mngadi also said the ‘unjustified’ bans have resulted in job losses, with many more to come.

“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,” said Mngadi.

In addition, Mngadi expressed concern that the minister of trade and industry, Ebrahim Patel, had once again failed to meet with the alcohol industry to discuss the impending ban.

“We have had three bans totalling 19 weeks of lost trade days with R36 billion [US$2.43m] loss in sales revenue for the industry and R29 billion [US$1.96m] loss in tax revenue for [the] government since the start of the lockdown this time last year.

“However, minister Patel has only found time on one occasion to meet with [the] industry to inform us of the third liquor ban.

“He has not responded to a series of correspondence from various organisations in the alcohol sector. We have, instead, been received by other ministers in the NCCC, but not him.”

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