Tavern and shebeen owners throughout the country and the alcohol industry as a whole called upon the government, pleading for producers and traders to be allowed to sell alcohol, following the latest trade restrictions imposed last month.
The ban on the sale, distribution and transportation of alcohol followed previous restrictions last year when South Africa had experienced the first wave of Covid-19 infections. According to the government, the ban was imposed to alleviate the pressure on healthcare facilities and keep beds open for pandemic cases instead of alcohol-related trauma cases. The industry, however, has been critical of the decision by government, saying that jobs and livelihoods have been put at risk and that there are better solutions to deal with infections, including stricter curfews and allowing for off-site sales to take place. The government has also been slammed due to the lack of consultation with the industry before the ban was imposed. The third ban on alcohol sales on December 28 condemned the industry to a total of 18 weeks of non-trading since lockdown was first imposed in March.
This has reduced liquor traders to mere spectators in the economy in which they contributed significantly over decades. More than 282 000 people are employed by the liquor industry, spread across taverns, bottle stores and other independent liquor traders. These jobs are being threatened the longer the prohibition against trading endures.
The industry feels the situation is becoming dire and that immediate intervention is needed at a presidential level, of which the first step would be to allow the sale of alcohol without a delay.
Liquor traders have sent a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, asking for UIF Temporary Employee/Employer Relief in support of traders, financial relief and a moratorium on all liquor licence fee renewals, including distribution licences.