Latest ban: Alcohol industry up in arms

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent announcement to ease lockdown restrictions was met with mixed reactions. 

The South African Liquor Brand Owners Association (SALBA) offered a scathing rebuke of government stance in not allowing liquor consumption during weekends. 

SALBA Chairperson, Sibani Mngadi, said the decision by government to impose alcohol sales restrictions without scientific evidence could only erode public confidence. 

“We have repeatedly called for the reasoning behind the decisions to prohibit or limit the off-consumption sales and to better understand the thinking that informs such.” 

SALBA’s dissatisfaction with the latest alcohol restrictions stemmed from the Ministerial Advisory Committee recommendation to the Minister of Health Joe Phaahla.  

According to Mngadi, the Ministerial Advisory Committee had recommended to the Minister of Health that alcohol sales of off consumption should be returned to the ‘usual hours of sale in terms of the Liquor Act.’ 

It said it was baffled by President Ramaphosa announcement and questioned the decision to ignore the Ministerial Advisory Committee recommendations. 

Vinpro, a NPC body that represents 2 600 South African wine grape producers, cellars and wine-related businesses said it welcomed the announcement by the President. But it was however concerned about government once again using a blanket approach to alcohol restrictions. 

“We strongly believe and will continue to argue that a differentiated approach is needed, which allows for a greater degree of decision-making at provincial level, based on empirical data” commented its MD Rico Basson. 

The liquor industry was still waiting for the outcome of the Cape High Court. The full bench of the Court had reserved judgement in a case where Vinpro ‘contested the approach followed by Government towards liquor ban restrictions within the Disaster Management Act.’

Since December 2020, the liquor industry had suffered severe economic effects while the illicit liquor had thrived. In 2020, SARS lost R11.3 billion of alcohol revenue to the illicit alcohol trade said Kurt Moore, CEO of SALBA. 

“To put things into perspective, in 2020 the illicit market was more worth R20.5 billion, which is R6.5 billion more than R14 billion budget the South African Police Service is allocated for criminal investigations” more said.  

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