South African bottle stores and tavern owners have pleaded with the government not to push them into poverty with yet another alcohol ban ahead of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) on Tuesday if the country moves to Level 2 Lockdown soon.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s acting spokesperson Tyrone Seale told The South African that the NCC was holding a meeting on Tuesday.
Asked whether the NCC would discuss lockdown restrictions at the meeting Seale said: “The NCCC is meeting today as part of its regular meetings. The agenda always focuses on the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Seale said.
There have been an increase in Covid-19 infections in the country in recent weeks with 2 383 new coronavirus infections recorded in the past 24-hour cycle. This brings the cumulative number of cases to 1 637 848. A further 72 people have died as a result of COVID-related complications, taking the national death toll to 55 874.
Amidst growing concerns of a tougher lockdown level liquor traders have called on the government to think of the thousands of township households that will be hurt by possible restrictions on alcohol before taking any decisions.
Liquor traders plead with NCCC not to implement yet another alcohol ban
“We’ve already had a total of 20 weeks of alcohol bans and many of our members have been forced to close their doors forever as a result,” said Lucky Ntimane, convenor of the National Liquor Traders Council.
“It will take some of these families generations to climb back out of poverty, and there is no vaccine for poverty. Banning alcohol is not an effective strategy to deal with Covid-19. People don’t stop drinking when you ban alcohol, they just find other channels to buy from. This is actually a gift to the illicit trade, at the expense of legal businesses built up over many years,” Ntimane said.
“We can all see that when alcohol sales are banned the illicit traders grab the chance to push up their prices and find new customers. At the rate we are going the whole alcohol trade will end up going underground. Why does the government want to punish the businesses that comply with Covid-19 safety measures and liquor licence conditions, while making the criminals rich?”.
Lucky Ntimane – National Liquor Traders Council
The NLTC has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa requesting an urgent meeting ahead of the next NCCC decision, to discuss more effective measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We know that vaccination must be the top priority, but there are many things we can do in the meantime to assist,” Ntimane said.
“Taverners have been working with the alcohol industry to drastically improve compliance with Covid-19 protocols and liquor licence conditions. We’ve increased the compliance from 75% in October last year to 89% in the latest audit.”
“The problem at the moment is not alcohol, it’s people getting tired of listening to instructions from the authorities and not behaving correctly,” Ntimane said.
“We are helping to spread the message that now is the time for maximum vigilance.”
He said through the industry body AWARE.org a total of 40 000 PPE packs had been distributed to taverns, along with sanitiser and educational material to raise awareness of the risks of COVID-19 and the need for maximum vigilance.
The organisation had also distributed food parcels to 20 000 taverns during lockdown, in addition to donations of PPE to 25 hospitals, representing a total investment of R145 million by the industry.