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Alcohol and tobacco industries holding thumbs for government to allow them to trade over Easter

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Alcohol and tobacco industries insist that there is no justification for a further ban despite upcoming Easter holidays being touted as high risk for super spreader events as a third Covid-19 wave looms.

File image.

Alcohol and tobacco industries insist that there is no justification for a further ban despite upcoming Easter holidays.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet is expected to meet to discuss the possible introduction of a higher lockdown level over the Easter weekend period. It’s been reported that recommendations have been made to the National Coronavirus Command Council to restrict alcohol sales, as fears of a third wave of Covid-19 infections increases.

The alcohol and tobacco industries are holding thumbs for government to allow them to trade over Easter.

This comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet is expected to introduce a higher lockdown level for the holidays

It’s been reported that recommendations have been made to the National Coronavirus Command Council to restrict alcohol sales, as fears of a third wave of Covid-19 infections increases.

However, Convener of the Liquor Traders Formation, Lucky Ntimane, believes there is no justification for yet another alcohol ban.

The alcohol and tobacco industries are holding thumbs for government to allow them to trade over Easter. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

“If anything, government should be complimenting the liquor industry and most certainly the liquor traders for having fully complied with all the relevant Covid-19 regulations. We have also continued to support all government’s efforts in stemming the tide of Covid-19 infections.”

Ntimane added that no data exists to justify a ban.

The South African Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba), meanwhile, have made recommendations to government through Nedlac on alternative measures to deal with short-term pressure on hospitals during the next Covid-19 surge and increased risk of infections around the Easter weekend.

These recommendations include reinstating the 11pm to 4am curfew; reducing permitted numbers for gatherings to 50% of capacity and a maximum of 50 people indoors to 100 people outdoors.

Salba also proposes that interprovincial travel should not be prohibited to protect the economic recovery and growth in the tourism and hospitality sector and that alcohol sales continue under current licence conditions, with restrictions being introduced only if hospital capacity becomes severely stretched.

“The pandemic and alcohol bans have brought the alcohol industry and any associated problems of alcohol harm into sharp focus,” said Sibani Mngadi, the chairperson of Salba.

“While it is undeniable that some people have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol that could lead to harmful behaviour, to single out alcohol as the root of all trauma is wrong.

“In order to ascribe the drop in trauma admissions to the alcohol bans, one also has to control for the influence of all the other imposed regulatory changes such as the curfew and restrictions on gatherings. Alcohol restrictions were imposed at the same time as the curfew, so it is disingenuous to suppose that the decline in trauma cases was due to solely the alcohol ban,” he added.

Mngadi, who is also the corporate relations director at Diageo SA, the country’s leading premium spirits company, said previous bans had caused irreparable damage to the alcohol industry.

“The toll on livelihoods in the liquor value chain has been significant, leading to the closure of businesses, loss of jobs and income, and a decline in investment. The cumulative impact of the last three alcohol bans led to a loss in sales revenue of R36.3 billion for the alcohol industry, putting 200 200 jobs at risk in the nation’s informal and formal economy.”

The tobacco industry say they too are hopeful of no further bans.

The tobacco industry say they too are hopeful of no further bans. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Sinenhlanhla Mnguni, the Chairperson of the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) said they have had no further consultations with government.

“We definitely aren’t expecting a ban, but stranger things have happened. When we were meant to argue our case last year in the Supreme Court of Appeal, we were approached by government to settle the matter. The settlement agreement was that if we withdrew our application, the government would in future if there was a need for a ban, consult with us first, and we haven’t had any discussions, so we don’t expect any ban.”

“However, when the bans first occurred, we weren’t consulted then, so you never know. Hypothetically, if the President speaks on Sunday and bans cigarettes, what recourse would we have? We could go to court. By the time the matter gets heard we will be screwed. The president even lifted the cigarette ban previously and put the ban in place again, so you just never know what could happen.”

The Saturday Star