Beer Association of SA slams govt’s ’heavy-handed’ four day alcohol sale ban
Durban - The Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) has slammed the government’s four day ban on off-site alcohol sales calling it “unnecessary and heavy-handed”.
In a statement following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address on Tuesday night where he announced the restrictions on off-site alcohol sales over the Easter long weekend, the BASA said there was no scientific evidence to back claims that prohibiting off-site sales would lead to a spike in Covid-19 cases.
In addition, the association said the the latest ban from April 2 to the April 5 - the third since country was placed on coronavirus alert last March - threatened the livelihoods of thousands of people employed by the industry.
“Government has taken an unnecessary and heavy-handed approach once again to an industry that supports over 1 million livelihoods,” the association said.
“Over 85% of craft breweries remain at risk of shutting their doors as a result of previous government bans. We simply cannot continue to operate under the constant uncertainty that our industry has faced with every holiday, where our ability to trade is at risk of being limited with no proper justification. Currently there has been no increase in cases despite the alcohol industry being open, and there has been no increase in trauma unit cases reported to justify shutting down the sale of alcohol for off-site consumption over the Easter holidays.
“There is also no scientific evidence that the off-site sales of alcohol might lead to an increased spread of the virus. There is, however, ample evidence that restrictions on alcohol sales have been a boost to the illicit alcohol industry – to the detriment of government revenue and public health”.
In his address to the nation on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said the country would remain on alert level 1 with curfew remaining the same – from midnight to 4am – and public spaces like beaches, parks and dams remaining open subject to people adhering to Covid-19 safety regulations.
Public gatherings, these will also be restricted to a maximum number of 250 people indoors and 500 outdoors.
According to BASA the beer and alcohol industries have remained active participants at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), where they have proposed reasonable interventions which can be enforced and monitored to save both lives and livelihoods.
The association said they had made a number of commitments to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 which included, a commitment to halt any sponsored events that encourage gatherings of any kind and all manufacturers agreeing to abide by the aware.org marketing code adapted for Covid-19.
In addition, all retailers have committed to self-regulate quantity restrictions per customer while the Consumer Goods Council of SA hotline was ready to take calls and reports of any breaches of Covid-19 regulations, which will immediately be reported to the police.
“In addition to this, BASA has placed 500 patrollers and ex-reservists in 50 police stations across the country to support SAPS with visible enforcement on the ground to assist in ensuring the adherence to lockdown regulations over these holidays. This was a program that we initially implemented in December with the Community Policing Forum. On Thursday, we will be handing over reflective jackets to some of these patrollers, in Meadowlands, Soweto.
“We have also increased the capacity of Alcohol Evidence Centres (AEC’s) in partnership with the Road Traffic Management Corporation of South Africa. AEC’s have been central to reducing fatalities caused by drinking and driving, as AEC units help law enforcement officers test suspected drunk drivers through Evidentiary Breathalyser Alcohol Testing (EBAT) and blood tests, which are processed by registered medical practitioners, who ensure that admissible evidence is collected for court proceedings”.
The association said it was most concerning that the government “continues to hobble our industry with trade restrictions” when the industry had shown an exemplary commitment to fighting the spread of Covid-19.
“While BASA remains committed to working openly and transparently with government, we also would appreciate the same in return. Spiralling job losses, the death of many small businesses, a burgeoning illicit alcohol trade and disinvestment in the country, should weigh heavily on the shoulders of state officials. Unless we can come up with sustainable solutions for the industry, the message will become clear to the world that South Africa is closed for business,” the association said.