Lockdown can’t be used to change alcohol laws in South Africa: liquor body

The South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) says it is wary of a push by anti-alcohol groups to use the country’s Covid-19 lockdown to change rules around the sale of alcohol.

The local alcohol industry and its stakeholders share the government’s concern over the pandemic and will continue to support meaningful measures to flatten the curve, said Sibani Mngadi, chairperson of Salba.

He said the industry has repeatedly made recommendations to the government through the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on measures to deal with surges in Covid-19 infections and will continue to work with the government in an effort to save lives, while protecting the livelihoods of a million jobs within the alcohol value-chain.

“The national state of disaster is about saving lives from the pandemic while protecting livelihoods in a society challenged with a triple burden of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

“It is not a platform to further an individual entity’s agenda on anti-alcohol advocacy,” he said.

Mngadi said that the alcohol industry has suffered a R36.3 billion loss in sales revenue, while the government has lost R8.7 billion in excise tax and R29.3 billion in tax revenue from the value chain as a result of the past three alcohol related bans.

He said that the vaccination roll-out is the ultimate solution to restrictions so that the economy can move toward recovery.

“This requires urgency in terms of rolling out the programme and the industry has repeatedly said it is willing to provide whatever logistical assistance the government requires to achieve this huge operational undertaking,” Mngadi said.

Mngadi’s comments come after the South African Alcohol Policy Alliance (Saapa) called on the government to restrict alcohol sales and advertising in South Africa as part of the fight against a third Covid-19 wave.

Saapa is a lobby group comprised of a network of non-profit organisations which advocate for evidence-based alcohol policies.

The group is calling for a host of restrictions to be placed on alcohol trade, including events and gatherings which could promote drinking.

It is also taking aim at other laws and alcohol advertising, insisting that government:

  1. Prohibit major alcohol-fuelled party events, including street parties;
  2. Reduce the gathering numbers to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors;
  3. Extend the curfew from midnight to 22h00, seven days a week;
  4. Announce that all on-consumption liquor outlets should be closed from 18h00 on public holidays and one day prior to public holidays to discourage the excessive use of alcohol in overcrowded venues and to limit the potential for ‘super-spreader’ events;
  5. Disallow alcohol consumption in public places, particularly in parks, on beaches, at swimming pools etc;
  6. Suspend for a minimum three months, or revoking, the licences of outlets that break alcohol and/or Covid-19 regulations;
  7. Reduce off-consumption operating hours.
  8. Temporarily impose zero breath and blood concentration levels for drivers during the State of Disaster – such a measure is already contained in the Road Traffic Amendment Bill which is currently before Parliament and has wide-spread support, but won’t be enacted before the end of 2021;
  9. Ban all special offers for reduced price alcoholic beverages at least until the end of the State of Disaster;
  10. Ban all alcohol advertising except at point of sale to reduce the pressure on people to drink.

Read: Government warned over more alcohol restrictions in South Africa

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Lockdown can’t be used to change alcohol laws in South Africa: liquor body