Midway through July, in an address to the nation, President Ramaphosa announced that the ban on alcohol sales would resume.
South Africa’s alcohol industry was blindsided by government’s reinstatement of the ban without forewarning, fearing dire economic impact due to likely job losses in the industry.
The rationale provided by government seemed centred on freeing up hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. Extreme measures are, arguably, necessary to both curb the spread of the pandemic, and ease the strain being placed on healthcare workers and facilities across the country.
At the same time, the country deserves to know exactly how and why decisions like the alcohol ban are taken, and what data is behind them, something which, like most decisions made by government and the mysterious National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) is sorely lacking.
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma attempted an explanation sans any concrete evidence. As per usual, this didn’t inspire much confidence in the people tasked with making policy decisions during the national state of emergency.
True to form, she laid down the law with the attitude of a parent saying “because I said so”. She didn’t make any mention of a plan, or a plan to come up with a plan, to keep the industries impacted by the ban afloat.
Meanwhile, the hospitality, tourism, restaurant, and alcohol industries are suffering massive losses, with employees facing unemployment, doors to establishments closing, and business going under.
Last week protests broke out calling attention to the hardships they are facing due to the lockdown. Government responded by setting SAPS, their water cannons, and stun grenades on peaceful protesters.
Now, the Restaurant Association of South Africa has presented the mysterious NCCC with yet another proposal to safely lift the alcohol ban, reports EWN.
The association’s Wendy Alberts said their proposal to lift the ban on alcohol would be discussed by the National Coronavirus Command Council on Saturday.
“It is a proposed lifting of the liquor ban which triages areas. So, it’s done through the local police station, you apply for a liquor permit to be a consumer.”
She said if problems arose in a certain area then they would no longer be able to sell liquor.
To be clear, it doesn’t seem likely that the ban will be lifted any time soon (some believe it could last eight weeks in total), but as Alberts points out, this would be a step towards reinstating goodwill between government and the people.
Right now, she says, “all they are doing is cutting off our knees, our ankles, our legs. We’re completely crippled.”
Some analysts have also come forward to say that the ban on alcohol only reduced alcohol-related hospitalisations because it was coupled with restrictions on movement. In countries around the world, similar decreases in hospitalisations were reported during hard lockdowns, even though alcohol sales weren’t banned, as reported by BusinessTech.
The proposal drafted by The Restaurant Association of South Africa would incentivise those selling on-premises alcohol, including bars and taverns, to ensure that customers are toeing the line, so as to mitigate the risk of their district losing its rights to sell and consume alcohol.
The National Liquor Traders Council (NLTC) has warned that a second ban on the sale of alcohol threatens the livelihoods of more than 34,500 tavern owners in South Africa, while as many as 500,000 people in the industry face economic ruin.
Taverns, the liquor body said, contribute between R40 billion and R60 billion a year to the economy, specifically the township economy.
This is the second proposal handed to government by representatives of the hospitality industry.
One would think that the government would be responsible for coming up with workable plans to bolster the economy and save industries, but here we are.
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