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Liquor industry fear that government might introduce a new alcohol ban for festive season

The liquor industry said it was disturbed by increasing public fears that the government might introduce a new ban on alcohol. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

The liquor industry said it was disturbed by increasing public fears that the government might introduce a new ban on alcohol. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Dec 13, 2021

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Cape Town - The liquor industry said it was disturbed by increasing public fears that the government might introduce a new ban on alcohol as a way of helping to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and keep hospital beds free during the current fourth wave of infections.

Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance in SA (Saapa SA) director Maurice Smithers said that these fears had led to a one-sided response that focused on the economic consequences of restricting access to alcohol, and downplayed or even denied the fact that excessive alcohol consumption could exacerbate the pandemic crisis.

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The Beer Association of SA (Basa) has gone as far as taking the government to court in the hope of getting the previous bans declared unconstitutional as part of a desperate effort to prevent new bans in future, while the Western Cape High Court’s long-awaited judgment on a similar matter brought by SAB is likely to be given soon.

Lefa Mapilo, the secretary for the Western Cape Liquor Traders Organisation, said the government must also consider the fact that as much as they wanted to save lives, they must know that there were lives that need to be protected.

Mapilo said the government must not target the liquor industry, as it was the industry that was most affected by Covid-19.

Basa’s chief executive, Patricia Pillay, said the previous alcohol bans had had a devastating impact on the alcohol industry, with 14.7% of projected sales volumes for 2020/2021 being lost (a total of 1 262.7 million litres).

Pillay said that R42.2 billion was lost in retail sales and there was a R60.7bn loss to GDP.

The total excise income tax loss was R10.2bn, with just over 233 000 jobs being put at risk. By January 11, 30% of local breweries were forced to shut their doors permanently, and 165 000 people had already lost their jobs.

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She said the bans also served as a major boost to the illicit alcohol industry, which grew to be worth more than R20.5bn in 2020.

“Another alcohol ban over the festive season, a time when we expect some recovery for the tourism and hospitality sector, would serve as the final nail in the coffin for thousands of businesses/citizens who just barely survived the previous bans,” she said.

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