Day 110 of the lockdown, and day two of the second round of the alcohol ban imposed under advanced alert level 3.
There’s a sentence that would have made absolutely no sense at the start of the year, but now rolls off the tongue.
President Ramaphosa’s Sunday night address to the nation was a gut punch for those who hadn’t stocked up on alcohol over the preceding few weeks, and also to those who think wearing a face mask is some sort of great impingement on their freedom.
South Africans were left shocked, and having to once again crunch those rationing numbers (welcome, smokers will say), but not quite as shocked as the alcohol industry itself.
South Africa’s alcohol industry has said it was blindsided by government’s immediate reinstatement of the ban on alcohol, warning of a dire economic impact due to likely job losses in the industry…
In a joint statement, the National Liquor Traders Council, South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) , the Beer Association of South Africa, Vinpro, and the Liquor Traders Association of South Africa, said they were shocked and disappointed.
“The industry was given no warning about the ban, nor an opportunity to consult with the National Coronavirus Command Centre (NCCC) before a decision was made and no consideration was given to the immediate logistical difficulties it poses for both suppliers, distributors and retailers alike,” the industry bodies said.
Whilst there is no denying that the sale of alcohol had an immediate, tangible effect on the ability of hospitals to handle the surge in COVID-19 cases, the fact that the decision was taken without any form of consultation with industry organisations is far from ideal.
After all, in a country with a skyrocketing unemployment rate, and an economy deep into recession, an industry with a value chain that affects almost a million South Africans should at least be involved in some sort of discussion with the relevant government decisionmakers.
As we have seen with the trade of illicit cigarettes, any gap in the market is quickly filled by those who trade outside of the law, and you can bet it won’t be long before neighbourhood WhatsApp groups are once again filled with people punting wine for extortionate prices.
We know that Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has stuck to her guns with regards to the ban on the sale of tobacco, and she seems equally as unlikely to relent on the alcohol sales ban.
Following Ramaphosa’s announcement on Sunday, Dlamini-Zuma addressed the media yesterday, and outlined the reasons behind reinstating the ban.
Below from MyBroadband:
Dlamini-Zuma explained that the sale of alcohol resulted in behaviours which conflicted with these responsibilities, and that was one reason why it has been banned.
“Alcohol will not be sold and it should not be transported, and this is very important because when people are drinking in groups, they let their guard down.”
She said that in these cases, people will not continue to wear their masks or observe social distancing, resulting in a higher risk of the virus spreading.
“We have seen it in many instances. The way alcohol brings people together, it discourages people from wearing masks, social distancing, and sanitising,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
“When people have taken liquor, they get drunk – some become violent, start fighting, killing each other, or even at home they become violent.”
Sadly, in South Africa, this is all true, and we are a violent country that clearly cannot hold its liquor.
Although, in a classic Dlamini-Zuma move, she also said this:
“Let me just add that we have been sent letters from doctors who are dealing with alcohol abuse. They have written to us about the trouble they face. It’s not that the alcohol ban is not supported by evidence, I just did not bring the letters with me: That’s the situation right now.”
Funny how she never seems to have the evidence on hand, or even when pressed by questions from other MPs. Her standard response to written questions regarding various aspects of the lockdown has repeatedly been “the information requested by the Honorable Member will be submitted as soon as it is available”.
Have it on hand before you address the media next time – simple.
The minister also encouraged South Africans to take a hard stance on those breaking the law:
“It should be our responsibility when we see somebody still selling alcohol to say to that person: ‘Don’t sell alcohol, otherwise we will call the police.’”
Given that many South Africans who ring the SAPS for assistance end up waiting for hours, followed by a failure to carry out even the most rudimentary of investigations, one has to wonder how quickly they would respond to a call about alcohol sales.
Perhaps if there was stock to be confiscated…
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