Full shelves with beer are pictured in a supermarket during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Berlin
Full shelves with beer are pictured in a supermarket during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Berlin

Coronavirus: Gauteng move to close liquor stores early hailed

By Baldwin Ndaba Time of article published Mar 18, 2020

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Pretoria - The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance - South Africa has praised the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety Faith Mazibuko for her decision to limit the distribution and sale of alcohol while the country deals with the coronavirus crisis.

Mazibuko announced that the deadline for the sale of alcohol will be 6pm during weekdays and 1pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

She made the announcement while the Gauteng government, under the leadership of Premier David Makhura, were detailing their plans to curb the coronavirus which had already affected 61 people out of 116 in the country.

SAAPA SA’s director Maurice Smithers said the organisation was urging other provinces to follow suit and introduce similar measures to assist in containing the virus and thereby reduce the strain on the health system.

“While we acknowledge Treasury’s call for economic activity to continue as normally as possible, the distribution, trade and consumption of alcohol raises particular challenges. These are: Alcohol outlets in communities serve as social spaces, attracting crowds the size of which depends on the spaciousness of the establishment.

“The drinking culture in South Africa typically peaks over weekends and holiday periods. 

“School closures will create an atmosphere of a ‘holiday period’. This, together with the “Easter break, could create social environments that encourage increased drinking by gatherings of people,” Smithers said.

She said police statistics on violence and hospital emergency admissions show a similar pattern over these peak periods, with 20 - 30% of hospital admissions being alcohol-related.

“Most trading in the majority of communities is not regulated. Thus, for example, of the 1 045 outlets in Khayelitsha in 2016, only 11% were licensed. So even though such areas have a limited number of licensed outlets, huge amounts of alcohol are distributed into them and sold to consumers on a weekly basis,” Smithers said. 

She said the expected economic impact of the current situation, specifically the number of people at home and not working because of the coronavirus measures and the coming Easter weekend, could have a negative impact on available household spending power.

Smithers said that  may result in less available funds for those having to stay away from formal and informal economic activities, and increased competition for resources, especially in the case of households with one or more consumers of alcohol.

“This could potentially result in a spike in incidents of domestic strife and interpersonal violence. Even under normal circumstances, 60% of women who report violence indicate that their abuser used alcohol at the time of the incident. In the current situation, the figure could be even higher. 

“The recent mass killings at a shebeen in Khayelitsha, the third such attack in the area in three months, is a reminder of the kind of violence associated with alcohol outlets, violence that could escalate in this period,” she said. 

Smithers said SAAPA SA believes that the urgent adoption of the Liquor Amendment Bill of 2017 would create the necessary conditions for the country to address some of these issues in the medium to long-term and would like the Presidency to encourage the Minister of Trade and Industry to immediately reactivate the processing of the Bill.

Political Bureau

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