The Beer Association of South Africa, comprising the Craft Brewers Association (BASA), Heineken South Africa and South African Breweries, has implored the government to steer clear of yet another alcohol ban in the country.
This comes ahead of a planned address by president Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday evening, where tighter lockdown restrictions are expected to be announced.
Among the recommendations that have been made to the president is a complete ban on alcohol, as well as a ban on gatherings.
South Africa is experiencing a third wave of Covid-19 infections, with thousands of new cases being reported each day. The health department has confirmed that this is likely being driven by the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus – which makes gatherings and interactions between people particularly risky.
However, while BASA said it acknowledges that large gatherings are a key driver of infections, a complete ban on alcohol is not something the country’s economy can afford – and suggested that the government focus on interventions that protect those most at risk of succumbing to Covid-19, “while protecting desperately needed jobs and livelihoods”.
“Our country does not have the option of another hard lockdown, including another alcohol ban. While South Africa’s slow start to its Covid-19 vaccine roll-out is regrettable, imposing further restrictions that will lead to further job losses and bankruptcies is not the answer.
“The only way out of this terrible situation is the implementation of sensible and balanced restrictions and a full-scale vaccination programme. Business cannot be expected to pay the cost for the government’s failings in this regard,” it said.
BASA said it acknowledged that the main driver of infections is large gatherings and the failure to observe mask-wearing and social distancing protocols. It, therefore, supports regulations focused on restricting large gatherings and requiring businesses and citizens to observe strict Covid-19 protocols.
“However, an alcohol ban will not have this desired effect,” it said.
Meanwhile, it noted that the three previous alcohol bans in South Africa resulted in over 7,400 jobs lost in the beer industry, R14.2 billion in lost sales revenue and more than a R7.8 billion loss in taxes and excise duties.
“Another ban will offer a severe blow to thousands of small businesses still trying to get back on their feet from the previous bans, resulting in even more job losses, business closures and loss in revenue for the national fiscus. This is true for all producers, but most especially for small brewers who are currently barely surviving,” it said.
“We urge National Government to implement interventions that save lives without sacrificing livelihoods as we fight the third wave over the coming weeks.”