Unions back call to lift South Africa’s alcohol ban – with these conditions

The Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) has called on government to lift the ongoing prohibition on alcohol sales to help protect jobs.

The trade federation’s parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks told eNCA that government has an equal duty to protect lives and those who depend on the sale of alcohol to make a living.

“We have always supported government’s objectives of saving lives in terms of dealing with the abuse of alcohol. We understand the pressure that government faced because our hospitals and emergency units were being filled with the abuse of alcohol.

“Equally we also have to bear in mind that hundreds of thousands of workers depend on the sale of alcohol in legal companies.”

Parks said that the country needs to get ‘the balance right’ and that the ban on the sale of alcohol was always seen as a temporary measure.

He added that Cosatu is calling for the introduction of specific conditions to ensure that the country’s hospitals are not overwhelmed once again.

These conditions include:

  • Limiting how much alcohol a business can sell to a particular individual;
  • Banning certain persons, such as young people and pregnant woman, from buying alcohol;
  • Not allowing any alcohol content in your blood whilst driving a vehicle;
  • Limiting the sales of how much alcohol you can buy at a sitdown venue such as a restaurant or bar.

Parks said it was important to recognise that limits that were placed on government, and that it was impossible for the state to police everyone and check how much they drink.

This means that citizens will also need to be responsible as consumers and not drink excessively.

He said that the alcohol industry also needs to play its role in supporting government restrictions and regulations. He also called for consumer education and the protection of workers in these industries.

While the national government ifs facing increasing legal challenges against its alcohol ban, it now also facing pressure at a provincial pressure to lift the ban.

Citing the new alert levels gazetted by Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, Western Cape premier Alan Winde said that he welcomes the confirmation that alert levels could be determined at a provincial, metro or district level.

He added that the Western Cape cabinet on Friday took the position that businesses which can open safely should be allowed to do so, and that the alcohol ban should be lifted, in conjunction with the implementation of smart measures aimed at reducing alcohol harms.

“We have written to both Minister Mkhize and Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to request a meeting where we will put forward these positions as it is imperative that we take decisive and immediate action to prevent an unemployment pandemic and further economic calamity,” he said.

“I will also be attending the President’s Coordinating Council meeting on Saturday where I hope to have the opportunity to raise these issues.”

Winde said that the Western Cape has seen a steady and sustained decline in the number of hospitalisations, with current numbers sitting below 1,200 – the lowest we have seen since June.

Coupled with this, the province has seen a greater percentage of tests come back negative, declining infections among healthcare workers and a decline in the number of daily deaths.

“The Western Cape has passed its peak and currently has adequate platform capacity, to the extent that the MSF field hospital in Khayelitsha is in the process of closing and we will soon be considering whether all our field hospitals need to remain open.

“We urge the Ministerial Advisory Committee to consider all of this information when making their recommendations,” he said.

Read: Officials push for lockdown level 2 this week: report

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Unions back call to lift South Africa’s alcohol ban – with these conditions