Industry warns against another alcohol ban for South Africa

The Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) has warned that the government could introduce another alcohol ban in South Africa should a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections hit the country over the December holiday period.

BASA, which includes the Craft Brewers Association, Heineken South Africa and South African Breweries (SAB), is concerned that another ban over a critical period could further damage the industry and lead to job losses.

The group has written to Trade, Industry and Competition minister Ebrahim Patel requesting his urgent intervention at a Cabinet-level to ensure that “irrational alcohol bans are no longer imposed, especially over the festive season, which is a critical time for the local industry”.

The previous four bans saw the beer industry losing 161 days of trade since March last year, putting just over 240 000 jobs at risk, with a tax revenue loss of R34.2 billion and R10.2 billion lost in excise revenue.

“No government funding or relief has been provided to assist our sector throughout this crisis, which has resulted in many small businesses being forced to close their doors permanently, including 27 craft breweries,” BASA said.

“South Africa currently has the highest unemployment rate in the world – any further job losses within the alcohol industry will have a devastating impact on our economy.”

Pick n Pay warning

Pick n Pay chairman Gareth Ackerman has also called on the government to be more transparent with its decision-making and end arbitrary alcohol bans going forward.

“We must avoid those cases where ideology, poor liaison, lack of transparency or intransigence damage our economy, and erode trust,” he said during Pick n Pay’s results presentation on Wednesday (20 October).

“The government’s reliance on restricting alcohol sales as part of its Covid-19 response has been immensely damaging. There is a wealth of evidence to show that it has little or no positive impact as a public health measure. ”

However, the bans have had an immensely negative impact on jobs, on the economy, on confidence in the Covid response, and on the performance of businesses like Pick n Pay, he said.

“Our concern is that the state of disaster is being used by elements of government to address liquor policy issues without resorting to the constitutional processes.

“We will continue to support the government in its fight against Covid-19, in ensuring that as many people as possible are vaccinated.  But we implore the government to heed the evidence and resist the temptation to reach again for restrictions on alcohol sales.

“It is of concern that liquor restrictions are being put in place for the local elections. We need to focus on getting the country vaccinated rather than putting further restrictions on citizens’ rights.”

Not evidence-based

The beer industry said it has repeatedly requested the government to provide the scientific data and evidence on which it based its decisions to enforce the previous alcohol bans.

“When the country was moved to Alert Level 2 on 21 September 2021, bottle stores were allowed to operate on Fridays for one extra day a week. Unsurprisingly, this was not what the government’s scientific advisors had recommended.

“In fact, a memo from the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) indicated that any attempts to keep in place the ban on alcohol sales for offsite consumption on Saturdays was difficult to justify. This proves that government’s restrictions on alcohol have not been the result of an evidence-based approach.”

Given this arbitrary decision making, BASA fears that the local beer industry could once again suffer the consequences of government restrictions in the lead up to summer.

“This concern has been reinforced by Minister Cele announcing that alcohol sales will be banned on municipal election day, with no reason given for government’s decision or any consultation with the industry having taken place,” it said.

Read: Police have changed their strategy around lockdown rules in South Africa: report.

Must Read

Partner Content

Show comments

Trending Now

Follow Us

Industry warns against another alcohol ban for South Africa