The Alcohol industry has slammed the government’s decision to ban alcohol sales over the weekends with fears that the country’s largest brewer, SAB, could once again withhold its intended R2 billion capital investment in the country.
The industry said the restrictions would place a major strain on retailers who were still trying to recover from the previous alcohol bans and sales restrictions. The alcohol industry has been advocating for the continued implementation of non-pharmaceutical measures to curb further spread of Covid-19.
Last week, SAB said it planned to invest at least R2bn in capital expenditure in the country as it anticipated that there would be no further restrictions on alcohol sales despite the rising Covid-19 cases amid the unstable vaccine roll-out.
It said the money would be used to upgrade its operating facilities and invested in new equipment.
However, on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa moved the country back to alert level 3 lockdown, reducing the number of social gatherings and extending the curfew by one hour.
Ramaphosa said the sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption would only be permitted between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Thursday, excluding public holidays.
He said alcohol sales for on-site consumption would be permitted as per licence conditions up to 9pm, while consumption in all public spaces was strictly forbidden.
Last year, SAB cancelled R5bn worth of capital investment as the fallout over the ban on alcohol spread on the first two prohibitions.
The Beer Association of SA said there was still no evidence that restrictions on off consumption sales will assist in the fight against the spread of Covid-19.
“We are also concerned about the unintended consequences of limiting retail hours, which further entrenches the illicit industry who use these restrictions as an opportunity to sell illicit products to the public,” it said.
The SA Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) said the government needed to explain the rationale behind this decision to restrict trading hours.
Salba chairperson Sibani Mngadi said the restructions denied the average working person the right to legally purchase alcohol for home consumption during their sparse free time.
“It is arbitrary and punitive to lower-income groups,” Mngadi said.
Last month, a report by Euromonitor International revealed that the illicit trade market has almost doubled in the last three years and is now estimated to be worth R20.5 billion.
The industry urged the government to prioritise its vaccination mass rollout programme.
South Africa’s vaccination rollout has been adversely affected by shortages in the global supply of vaccines, leaving the country relying on the Pfizer vaccine which requires two doses.
Ramaphosa said South Africa would receive a total of 3.1 million Pfizer doses and 3 million doses from J&J by the end of June.
South Africa is now vaccinating around 80 000 people a day, with hopes that the number will grow rapidly in the weeks to come.
Salba chief executive Kurt Moore said South Africa must vaccinate 250 000 to 300 000 people per day to avoid significantly higher numbers of Covid-related deaths.