Durban – The Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) has criticized the government’s four-day ban on off-site alcohol sales, calling it “unnecessary and overbearing”.
In a statement following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech on Tuesday night where he announced the restrictions on off-site alcohol sales over the Easter long weekend, BASA said there was no evidence science backing claims that banning off-site sales would spike. in Covid-19 cases.
Additionally, the association said the latest April 2-5 ban – the third since the country was put on coronavirus alert last March – threatened the livelihoods of thousands of people employed by the industry.
“The government has once again taken an unnecessary and brutal approach to an industry that supports over a million livelihoods,” the association said.
“Over 85% of craft breweries are still at risk of closing their doors due to previous government bans. We simply cannot continue to operate in the constant uncertainty that our industry has been faced with on every public holiday, where our ability to trade risks being limited without proper justification. Currently, there has been no increase in the number of cases despite the opening of the alcohol industry, and no increase in the number of cases in trauma units has been reported to justify the closure. the sale of alcohol for consumption off-site during the Easter holidays.
“There is also no scientific evidence that off-site alcohol sales could lead to further spread of the virus. There is, however, ample evidence that restrictions on alcohol sales have boosted the illicit alcohol industry – to the detriment of government revenues and public health ”.
In his address to the nation on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said the country would remain on Alert Level 1 with the curfew remaining the same – from midnight to 4 a.m. – and public spaces like beaches, parks and Dams remaining open subject to people adhering to Covid-19 security. regulations.
Public meetings, they will also be limited to a maximum of 250 people indoors and 500 outdoors.
According to BASA, the beer and alcohol industries have remained active participants in the National Council for Economic Development and Labor (Nedlac), where they have proposed reasonable interventions that can be applied and monitored to save both lives and livelihoods.
The association said it has made a number of commitments to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, including a commitment to halt any sponsored events that encourage gatherings of any kind and all manufacturers agreeing to abide by the marketing code of aware.org adapted for Covid19.
In addition, all retailers have committed to self-regulating quantity restrictions per customer while the Consumer Goods Council of SA hotline was ready to take calls and reports of any breaches of Covid-19 regulations, which will be immediately reported. to the police.
“On top of that, BASA has placed 500 patrollers and ex-reservists in 50 police stations across the country to support SAPS with a visible on-the-ground app to help ensure lockdown regulations are followed during these vacations. This is a program that we initially implemented in December with the Community Policing Forum. On Thursday we will be giving out reflective vests to some of these patrollers in Meadowlands, Soweto.
“We have also increased the capacity of the Alcohol Evidence Centers (AEC) in partnership with the Road Traffic Management Corporation of South Africa. ACS have played a central role in reducing deaths caused by drinking and driving, as ACS units help law enforcement officers test suspected impaired drivers through testing. alcohol level (EBAT) and blood tests, which are processed by licensed physicians, which ensure that admissible evidence is collected for legal proceedings ”.
The association said it was of great concern that the government “continues to hamper our industry with trade restrictions” as the industry has shown exemplary commitment to tackling the spread of Covid-19.
“While BASA remains committed to working openly and transparently with government, we would also appreciate the same in return. Spiraling job losses, the deaths of many small businesses, the burgeoning illicit alcohol trade and divestment in the country are expected to weigh heavily on the shoulders of state officials. Unless we can find sustainable solutions for the industry, the message will become clear to the world that South Africa is closed for business, ”the association said.