Home South African Cabinet meets amid pressure to unban sale of booze, cigarettes

Cabinet meets amid pressure to unban sale of booze, cigarettes

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Calls for the president to move the country to alert Level 2 of the lockdown amid concerns that the economy has already taken a hard enough battering due to restrictions and needs to be opened immediately.

There is mounting pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa to move the country to Level 2 and unban the sale of alcohol and cigarettes. Picture:Bongani Shilubane African News Agency

POLICE Minister Bheki Cele has confirmed that the Cabinet is meeting on Saturday ahead of the expected easing of further restrictions on the lockdown.

However, Cele on Thursday refused to be drawn on whether there will be a lifting of the ban on alcohol.

This follows reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to lift the ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes.

“I know the Cabinet will be meeting tomorrow (Saturday) and I will be presumptuous and arrogant to say what the Cabinet will say tomorrow,” said Cele.

His comments came as political parties rallied behind calls for Ramaphosa to move the country to alert Level 2 of the lockdown amid concerns that the economy had already taken a hard enough battering due to restrictions and needed to be opened immediately.

Ramaphosa is widely expected to address the nation on Saturday on the new measures that the Cabinet and the National Coronavirus Command Council have taken to ease restrictions and reopen sectors of the economy that had remained closed amid fears of a spike in infections.

The extended National State of Disaster, which Ramaphosa announced in July, ends on Saturday and parties in the National Assembly have said that the country’s road to economic recovery needed to be kick-started immediately to avoid further closures of business and job losses.

Wayne Thring, ACDP deputy president, said that they had advocated for the removal of the lockdown for over a month and that their position remains the same.

“This incremental moving of the economy now to stage 2 and then eventually to stage 1, while still maintaining the State of Disaster is purely an attempt by the ANC to maintain control of the different sectors of the South African society where the ANC is beginning to lose control due to the rampant corruption within the ranks of the party,” Thring said.

With calls from the liquor and tobacco industries for the lifting of the ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes, Thring said that it would be hypocritical of the ACDP to call for the lifting of the ban on all sectors and exclude the alcohol and tobacco sector.

However, he said that this should be done with mild restrictions in place, such as allowing sales on certain days, to limit the imbibing of alcohol to an extent where crime and accidents increase.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said that the move to Level 2 would be correct as there was already a jobs bloodbath and the economy was on its knees and that there was a need for a balancing act.

“The people are already on Level 1, so what’s the big deal? South Africans are on Level 1, what they should do is just to ease the economic areas, especially like restaurants, liquor and so on because people are losing jobs now and there is no convincing scientific research which says if we open restaurants more people will die,” Holomisa said.

“We are seeing it in other countries, restaurants are opening and if we’re going to continue to say people must not enjoy food with liquor then more restaurants will close and others have closed and will never open. Restaurants and tourism are heavily affected and these are areas where we have been generating revenue.”

The IFP’s Narend Singh said that they were for the move to Level 2 as long as it was based on scientific and economic considerations where the priority would be the protection of lives and then protection of livelihoods.

In terms of the lifting on the sale of liquor, Singh said: “There have been long discussions with those in the liquor industry, but there must be some responsible way of controlling sales and consumption either at taverns or even at places such as restaurants. The emphasis is on individual responsibility.”

Narius Moloto of the PAC said that they wanted the total opening of the economy.

“I’m wondering if we still have an economy, I think our economy has collapsed a long time ago. The lockdown has continued to create huge unemployment and the suffering of people and it’s not benefiting anyone, it brings upon misery and we call for the immediate reopening of the economy.”

Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, NFP MP, said they did not have an issue with the reopening of the economy but added that it was necessary to have a balance between the economy and the protection of lives.

“We have a problem is that every regulation that has been put in place, the government has not put any measures in place to ensure that there’s a level of compliance with those regulations so that we can balance saving lives with the reopening of the economy.

“We do appreciate that we have to open the economy because people are losing their jobs, businesses are closing down and there is poverty and hunger. We understand that, however you must balance the opening of the economy with saving lives and limiting infections,” said Emam.