Liquor industry stakeholders have warned of the harmful effects of a fourth alcohol ban for South Africa, after the lockdowns and bans devastated the sector over the past year.
The warning comes as president Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet is set to meet to discuss the possible introduction of a higher lockdown level over the Easter weekend period.
Convener of the Liquor Traders Formation Lucky Ntimane said the national coronavirus command council is expected to discuss a potential ban on alcohol.
“We do not think that a total ban on alcohol sales will be a solution either in the short or long term,” the group said.
“A complete shutdown of liquor sales would mean an end to the tavern market and the 250,000 direct jobs linked to the sector,” it said.
It added that any curfew measures and alcohol restrictions, if they are introduced, should still allow off-premises sales to allow for home consumption.
This has been echoed by South African Liquor Brand Association chief executive Kurt Moore who told BusinessDay that neither the industry nor country could afford any further restrictions.
“A fourth ban on alcohol sales will be devastating to an industry that was decimated by three bans and is only starting its economic recovery.”
On Wednesday, Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said that a decision to move South Africa to a higher lockdown level is currently being discussed by government officials.
Mkhize said that the decisions will be based on recommendations from epidemiological experts as well as business and members of civil sector.
He said that there have been recommendations to introduce a stricter lockdown as part of a consultation process based on scientific evidence.
However, he noted that the government has also received a request from the religious sector to allow for increased church attendance over the Easter weekend.
“This is a sensitive period where there is the vulnerability and the chance of the risk that we could have a super spreading event, with all the festivities and activities that go with the Easter long weekend.
“So the advisory was for a temporary increase in restrictions over this period of time,” he said.
He added that the government has to take into account that we must discourage super-spreader events over the Easter weekend, we need to avoid inter-provincial movement which could lead to spreading the virus.
However, he noted that South Africans have largely learnt their lessons over the past year on issues such as mask-wearing and social distancing, indicating that government may not have to be overly strict with a lockdown.