Deputy secretary-general of the ANC Jessie Duarte says that South Africa should reassess its policy in terms of the regulation of alcohol ‘with or without the Covid-19 threat’.
Writing in an opinion column on News24, Duarte said that as the country moves to level 3 it is important to highlight the devastating effects that alcohol consumption has on the country’s health system.
Duarte said that the ANC will support whatever measures the National Command Council on Covid-19 deem fit; especially on the sale of alcohol at level 3.
However, she cautioned that the sale of alcohol would lead to a direct increase in the number of emergency cases. She further pointed to a UCT research paper which shows that South Africa has one of the highest per capita consumption rates in the world.
“Instead of assisting patients coming into our hospitals with Covid-19 complications, South African hospitals, private or public for that matter, will now also have to concentrate on the upsurge of alcohol-related injuries which are unnecessary and which can easily be prevented with appropriate measures in place, as we saw during lockdown levels four and five,” she said.
The Western Cape, with its high infection rate and deaths due to Covid-19, is even more susceptible to disastrous outcomes, Duarte said.
“The history of the province, where the dop system and the deliberate dumping of addictive substances occurred, has affected communities to such an extent that a number of social ills exist and has even led to health tragedies such as hosting the world’s highest cases of children born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.
“We must therefore use the opportunity once again to reassess our policy in terms of the regulation of alcohol with or without the Covid-19 threat.”
Duarte has also defended Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s, position on the sale of tobacco, telling the industry to “back off” after a petition called for the “removal” of a current ban on tobacco products into level 3.
“As far as I’m concerned, this woman, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has done more for this country than the tobacco industry has or will do for any country, anywhere in the world, ever again, other than making people ill,” Duarte told News24.
“So, why don’t you back off? Why don’t you allow us as country, as a nation, to make a democratic choice and decide who we want as our leadership? And we’ve done so. We chose her.”
Sale of alcohol
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday (25 May), that South Africa will move to alert level 3 with effect from 1 June – with more sectors of the economy opening and the removal of a number of restrictions on the movement of people.
This will include the limited sale of alcohol, he said. “Alcohol may be sold for home consumption only under strict conditions, on specified days and for limited hours. Announcements in this regard will be made once we have concluded discussions with the sector on the various conditions.”
However, the liquor industry has cautioned that the draft guidelines around the sale of liquor could prove problematic.
“The alcohol industry currently contributes to nearly a million jobs along the value chain and supports nearly 800 small and medium enterprises. We are working with the government and providing input on the draft proposals,” said Distell chief executive officer Richard Rushton.
He said that Distell’s two areas of concern are the unintended consequences of restricted trading that result in overcrowding, and continue to incentivise illicit trade.
“Secondly, we want to ensure the economic inclusion of taverners who are currently excluded from transforming to off consumption outlets.”
He said that in India, where after a six-week ban on the sales of alcohol, similar decisions were taken to open up with restricted trading which led to over-crowding and fighting at outlets.
“This outcome would be counterproductive to strict safety protocols and government’s overall Covid-19 objectives,” Rushton warned.