Extended alcohol ban raises many questions

 Extended alcohol ban raises many questions
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The Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) said it would submit an urgent Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to obtain the data and evidence on which it based its decision to extend an alcohol ban by another two weeks.

Basa issued the statement late on Sunday, after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the prohibition would remain in place for another fortnight as the government maintained a level four Covid-19 lockdown for a further two weeks.

“The latest alcohol ban, which has been in place since the 28th of June, has already served a devastating blow to the alcohol industry, putting an estimated 4,603 jobs at risk as well as potential loss of R5.1 billion (US$355 million) in taxes and excise duties,” Basa spokesperson Nicole Mirkin said.

“In all our discussions with government, it has been acknowledged that the main driver of infections is large gatherings and the failure to observe mask wearing and social distancing protocols. We have also not been provided with the data showing the link between alcohol and increased hospital admissions, despite requesting this from government on numerous occasions.”

Basa, which includes the Craft Brewers Association, Heineken South Africa and South African Breweries, said its application was part of efforts to understand the rationale for extending the alcohol ban “when it is clear that thousands more jobs will be shed and billions more will be lost to the national fiscus”.

She noted media reports at the weekend which said Cabinet had decided two weeks ago that the current adjusted level 4 restrictions would be in place for 21 days, but in order to manage concerns from the business community, Ramaphosa had decided to announce that these would be in place for two weeks before being reviewed.

“If this is true, then BASA also questions its engagements with the National Joint and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints) this week via the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on the current lockdown regulations,” said Mirkin.

“The beer industry, along with the broader alcohol sector, made a number of proposals to NatJoints including allowing all licenced establishments to be able to sell alcohol for off-consumption under adjusted alert level 4. This would allow these businesses to earn an income, would stop citizens from buying from the flourishing illicit market while also ensuring they consume alcohol in the safety of their homes.”

If NatJoints already knew that the ban would be extended then its discussions with the alcohol industry this week had been conducted in bad faith and serious questions needed to be raised regarding the usefulness of these engagements in future, Mirkin added.

Chris Louw


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