Alcohol industry groups have welcomed South Africa’s move to an adjusted level 2 lockdown but have raised concerns about the damage another ban could do to the sector.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday evening (12 September), that alcohol sales for on-site consumption will be permitted seven days a week up to 22h00, and the sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption will be permitted from Monday to Friday between 10h00 and 18h00.
“The further easing of restrictions will provide some reprieve to those businesses that have survived the four alcohol bans, which forced the industry to shut down for 161 days since March last year, putting just over 240,000 jobs at risk,” said the Beer Association of South Africa (BASA).
“However, with a Covid-19 fourth wave expected to hit at the beginning of December, any recovery seen in the sector will be eradicated should another ban be enforced by the government over the festive season.”
With this period also being the busiest time for liquor outlets and establishments, another alcohol ban will no doubt be the final nail in the coffin for thousands of businesses and the jobs they support, BASA said.
“BASA, therefore, continues to call for a proper consultation by the government before considering any new regulations to stop the spread of Covid-19 over the coming months. Our industry, and the over 450,000 livelihoods it supports, can simply not afford the president announcing another immediate ban on the legal trade of alcohol without any prior warning or an opportunity to properly engage with government.”
“Our most urgent task is to vaccinate our population so that as many people as possible are protected from severe illness or death before any resurgence of infections,” said president Ramaphosa on Sunday. “The more people that get vaccinated before December, the less likely it is that we will experience a devastating fourth wave over the holiday period.
“That is the greatest reason for all of us who have not yet done so to get to a vaccination site and get protected.
The beer industry said it would continue to roll out reasonable interventions to save both lives and livelihoods during the pandemic.
“We call on all liquor outlets and establishments to continue playing their part by enforcing the wearing of masks and social distancing in their establishments. We also call on consumers to drink in moderation and continue taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves and others from Covid-19.
“Finally, we also encourage all South Africans over the age of 18 years to get vaccinated. This is the only way we will be able to fully reopen the economy and resume our normal lives.”
A report published by the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) and the Liquor Traders Association of South Africa (LTASA) shows that the liquor sector has haemorrhaged jobs since the government first introduced restrictions at the end of March 2020.
The data shows that nearly 3,000 jobs have already been lost across more than 1,400 independently owned liquor stores. Many of these stores are black-owned, and employees are breadwinners, the CGSA said.
“With each store on average employing five people – excluding service providers’ employees, such as merchandisers, security workers and cleaners – these are at real risk of losing jobs with devastating consequences.
“Given the impact of the severity of the lockdowns so far, and considering that some retailers may need at least six months to fully recover from successive lockdowns, further retrenchments cannot be ruled out.”