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Council urges against reinstating alcohol ban


National Liquor Traders Council makes plea after Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the government was considering reinstating booze ban

File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

THE NATIONAL Liquor Traders Council (NLTC) has urged the government not to reverse its decision on the sale of alcohol.

The council’s national convener, Lucky Ntimane, made the plea on Saturday after Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the government was considering reinstating the restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Mkhize said as a result of escalating abuse of alcohol, hospitals were being overwhelmed by trauma patients.

Ntimane admitted that the NLTC did not have a solution to the problem of alcohol abuse. “We have been calling for the government to sit down with us and find ways in which we can mitigate this thing,” said Ntimane.

Mkhize, who is a member of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), had on Friday told the media that the lifting of the ban had caused hospitals to be overwhelmed with patients who were injured as a result of alcohol abuse.

“We cannot say it is not going to be done, but we have to do it in such a way that everyone understands why we have to do it if the beds, for example, are so overwhelmed and the hospitals are full because of people who are in as a result of abuse of alcohol.

“But if people have gone all out to make a big issue of the fact that they could not be allowed to have alcohol, it is like imposing unnecessary restrictions,” Mkhize said.

He said the government was trying to find a mechanism to help communities understand the consequences of alcohol abuse, as there was “seriousness of the trauma patients clogging wards and theatres and taking over staff”.

When contacted for further clarity, Mkhize’s spokesperson, Lwazi Manzi, referred questions to the Government Communication and Information System, whose director-general, Phumla Williams, said she could not comment on the matter as the Cabinet had not taken a decision on it yet.

“I don’t want to be making comments on the things that are said by Minister Mkhize from the council’s (NCCC) point of view because those things are not binding; it has to be the Cabinet that takes that decision, then I will then be able to comment,” said Williams.

The ban on the sale of alcohol, which was imposed under Level 5 of the lockdown, was lifted under Level 3 but trading was only allowed between Mondays and Thursdays.

However, Ntimane said part of the problem was that people would stock up on alcohol on these days so that they could sell it between Friday and Sunday.

“I got reports that in Diepsloot (north of Johannesburg) people are having parties. Because we deal with liquor, we cannot shy away from the fact that those things are happening, and it is difficult to defend things that are happening when officially we are supposed to be not trading.”

He said since the NLTC only represented traders, who “are down in the value chain”, it could only encourage responsible trading … “and encourage them (members) to talk to their consumers and ensure that those consumers consume alcohol responsibly”.

“It would be very wrong (to reinstate the ban) because the reason why they want to put this ban (in place) is because they are saying the hospital system is being clogged up as trauma cases are rising, but after Covid-19 you will still have the same problem. So why can’t the government, together with the industry, come with a solution?” he said.