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‘We’re being punished for the sins of a few’ say alcohol traders and consumers

File picture: Dylan de Jonge via Unsplash.

File picture: Dylan de Jonge via Unsplash.

Published Jan 17, 2021


JOHANNESBURG - Alcohol consumers and traders are again up in arms over the latest liquor sales ban, saying they are punished for the sins of a few.

Their cries follow President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement this week that the adjusted Covid-19 level 3 lockdown regulations would be extended.

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It is unclear whether the ban will be effective until the end of the month or until February 15, when the decision to close the borders will be reviewed.

The complaints come against the backdrop of a court challenge by the liquor producers as well as claims that the industry has paid social media influencers to help sway public opinion in their favour.

Announcing the ban of alcohol sale on December 28, Ramaphosa said the rise of Covid-19 infections was fuelled by so-called superspreader events, including end-ofyear functions, family and social gatherings, along with music and cultural events.

“This is a cause for great alarm and points to an extreme lack of vigilance over the holiday period.

“We have now let down our guard, and unfortunately, we are now paying the price,” said Ramaphosa at the time, adding that hand sanitisers were not being used, and masks were being worn to gain entry and were then taken off.

He said in the same social gatherings, the consumption of alcohol in restaurants, nightclubs and taverns contributed to risky behaviour “like not wearing masks and not observing social distancing”.

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Gloria Motsoeneng, 24, from Sebokeng in Gauteng, said the ban of alcohol sales was not fair to those abiding with the law and lockdown regulations.

“This is not fair, some of us have been complying with the regulations. They can’t punish the whole congress of baboons based on the behaviour of one or two.

“The law must deal with those neglecting the rules so that they don’t disobey the law,” she said.

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Another consumer, Thabiso Kotokwane, 34, from Evaton in the Vaal, said it was unfair as his family depended on selling liquor to survive.

“This is too much now. Why can’t they close the country but allow us to sell alcohol as takeaways? “Many people were complying. “Others were drinking in their homes. Only a few were destructive.”

Shebeen owner Puseletso Molefe, 34, of Orange Farm south of Joburg, said the ban affected her family, which has since been struggling as their business was the only source of income.

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“This is how we are surviving as a whole family due to the high rate of unemployment in the country.

“We are a family of 11 in the house and we all depend on this business. Now it is a big problem that we are not allowed to operate," Molefe said.

Her sentiments were echoed by another trader, Salaminah Tsotetsi, who said: “I thought it was better if they allowed people to buy alcohol and drink in their homes, to avoid hunger and starvation.

“Right now I can’t buy enough food nor pay my debts because I don’t have any income,” she said.

A bottle store owner Kodisang Mokoena said Ramaphosa’s decision was not fair, saying: “They allowed foreigners to come here and do businesses throughout the country.

“Now our only hope is to sell alcohol. How are we supposed to feed our families while they prohibit us from operating?”

However, not everybody is against the liquor ban.

Moferere Masheane from Bophelong, Vanderbijlpark, said the decision to ban the sale of alcohol was good and would save lives.

“Ramaphosa did well because people refused to listen and were flooding to the taverns. They even ignored the lockdown protocols.

“There was no social distancing and most didn’t even bother to wear masks. I feel the president did well to combat the spread of this virus even though I feel many are contradicted from the festival activities,” he said .

Kgabisang Letsela, who lives in Fochville, West Rand, also agreed with Masheane, calling on Ramaphosa to consider another lockdown.

“The majority of people do not comply and the regulations can’t stop the spread but they only limit.

“So I think the only way to contain this virus is a total lockdown. I think he must add more levels so the medical facilities can handle the inflow.”

Liquor Traders Association of SA (LTASA) spokesperson Lucky Ntimane said the ban was an “unnecessary burden on the economy” and failed to strike a balance between lives and livelihoods that the government was trying to achieve.

“The burden has inevitably fallen on those with the least financial resources to absorb these continuing losses, namely the independent small businesses,” he said.

South Africa Liquor Brand Owners (SALBA) chairperson, Sibani Mngadi, said the ban has affected the economy.

“Before the second ban, the national treasury in its mid-term budget statement already projected a 28% decline in alcohol excise tax contribution. The industry contributed R46.8 billion in excise tax in the 2019/20 financial year.

“Treasury projection is that this was down to R33.7bn in the 2020/21 government financial year. From a volume perspective, wine is down 21%, spirits 21.9% and beer 23.1%.”

The SA Breweries (SAB) said it would approach the court to challenge the constitutionality of the ban.

“The damage to the South African economy and impact on the alcohol value chain arising from the ban on the sale of alcohol is, in SAB’s view, disproportionate and unlawful,” it said last week.

Sunday Independent

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