Since the country first went into lockdown back in March 2020, the alcohol ban has, without a doubt, become one of the most contentious measures to be implemented by government. With a ‘family meeting’ expected any day now, the booze sector has expressed concern over yet another ban.
Under the current level 1 lockdown restrictions, the sale and on-site consumption of alcohol is permitted – provided that it occurs outside of the midnight to 04:00 curfew.
Given the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases and the spike in hospitalisations, government could implement another alcohol ban, or at least make adjustments to the regulations on its consumption and sale. Government has long maintained that the motivation behind the ban was to take pressure off the country’s health system, with the aim of prioritising COVID-19 hospitalisations.
The sector is already reeling from the economic devastation spurred by the alcohol ban and has moved to seek engagement with government to avoid another limit on booze. The National Liquor Traders Council (NLTC) and Liquor Traders Association of SA said there needed to be efforts on both sides to not only save the alcohol sector but also prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“Where restrictions in economic activity are required, these should be clearly explained with clear end dates,” NTLC convener Lucky Ntimane said.
“This allows businesses to plan, rather than facing an open-ended disruption which is significantly more difficult to manage and leads to far greater business distress and job losses”
What does Ramaphosa say about the alcohol ban?
For many, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, the alcohol ban has unravelled the extent of South Africa’s problem with the bottle. Police Minister Bheki Cele, a known ‘anti-alcohol advocate,’ has often expressed his disdain for booze, highlighting some of its negative effects, including that it leads to domestic violence. Given that Cele is a member of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), he is likely to support the implementation of an alcohol ban.
Ramaphosa has said as government, they need to look deeper into the country’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
“We need to have more in-depth research and a comprehensive national discussion about this matter and our aim, and I urge you to have regard to this during your policy discussions,” he said.
“How can we address this alcohol challenge? It is huge, we are reputed to be possibly number three in alcohol-consuming countries. Alcohol also leads to gender-based violence which continues to plague our communities.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa