South Africa restricts off-site alcohol sale over Easter weekend, BaSa slams the decision

SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa has announced a partial ban on the sale of alcohol over the long Easter weekend to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Addressing the nation, President Cyril Ramaphosa said alcohol fuels reckless behaviour, and for this reason, the government has banned the sale of alcohol that is taken away from the point of sale to be consumed elsewhere.

The ban will be in effect from Friday, 2 April until Monday, 5 April, which is the duration of the Easter holiday.

“The sale of alcohol for off-site consumption will be prohibited this coming Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. On-site sales at restaurants, shebeens and bars will be allowed, according to licensing conditions, up until 23:00 p.m. (2100 GMT),” the president said.

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The government avoided a total ban of alcohol sales in the country during the Easter weekend and evaded what the industry had touted as a possible 11-day ban, following meetings with stakeholders.

Mixed reactions to the move

However, the alcohol industry has communicated mixed feelings about the announcement.

The Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) calls the restriction on off-site sales “unnecessary” with “no valid basis”, while the South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) welcomes the decision not to totally ban alcohol sales, which has been the case on three occasions over the past 12 months, reports Bizcommunity.

“We simply cannot continue to operate under the constant uncertainty that our industry has faced with every holiday, where our ability to trade is at risk of being limited with no proper justification.”

Beer Association of South Africa

The bans have totalled 19 weeks of lost days of trade, leading to R36bn loss in sales revenue for the industry and R29bn in tax revenue loss for Government.

Salba Chairperson Sibani Mngadi said, “The decision to keep the on-consumption trading environment open under the licence conditions and limitations of the curfew is very much welcome. Taverns, bars, restaurants are a critical part of the tourism business which we need to assist to recover.

“There is a need for more engagement with the Government to better understand the thinking that informs restrictions of the off-consumption channel, which has been limited to four-days a week trade at various stages of the lockdown,” he added.

Hobbling the industry

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Meanwhile, Basa says that Government has taken an unnecessary and heavy-handed approach to an industry that supports over 1 million livelihoods.

“We simply cannot continue to operate under the constant uncertainty that our industry has faced with every holiday, where our ability to trade is at risk of being limited with no proper justification.

“Currently there has been no increase in cases despite the alcohol industry being open, and there has been no increase in trauma unit cases reported to justify shutting down the sale of alcohol for off-site consumption over the Easter holidays,” says Basa in a statement.

Basa highlighted it had made a number commitments to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 over the Easter period.

These include a commitment to halt any sponsored events that encourage gatherings of any kind with all manufacturers agreeing to abide by the marketing code adapted for Covid-19 and retailers committing to self-regulate quantity restrictions per customer.

In addition to this, Basa has placed 500 patrollers and ex-reservists in 50 police stations across the country to support SAPS with visible enforcement on the ground to assist in ensuring adherence to lockdown regulations over these holidays.

The capacity of Alcohol Evidence Centres (AEC’s) has also been increased, in partnership with the Road Traffic Management Corporation of South Africa.

AEC’s have been central to reducing fatalities caused by drinking and driving, as the units help law enforcement officers test suspected drunk drivers through Evidentiary Breathalyser Alcohol Testing (EBAT) and blood tests, which are processed by registered medical practitioners, who ensure that admissible evidence is collected for court proceedings.

“It is most concerning that government continues to hobble our industry with trade restrictions when the industry has shown an exemplary commitment to fighting the spread of Covid-19 and to working together with government in coming up with solutions to the problems we have been facing,” says Basa.

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