Liquor trade council writes to Ramaphosa to ensure sale of liquor continues

Concerns have been raised over the impact of booze on trauma admissions since the ban on sales was lifted in June.

President Cyril Ramaphosa interacting with communities across the nation through a virtual Presidential Imbizo on coronavirus. Picture: @PresidencyZA/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - The National Liquor Traders Council has formally written to President Cyril Ramaphosa to ensure alcohol sales would continue during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Concerns have been raised over the impact of booze on trauma admissions since the ban on sales was lifted in June.

The issue has been on the agenda of government's national coronavirus command council on tonight the president is expected to provide updates on deliberations.

The National Liquor Traders Council represents about 50,000 traders who operate mainly in townships across the country.
In a letter submitted to the president on Sunday ahead of his address to the nation, it states members have always worked within laws and regulations.

It adds registered traders do not sell alcohol to minors, pregnant women, people who are visibly intoxicated or people in uniform.

The council's Lucky Ntimane said the introduction of stricter regulations or a further ban on alcohol sales will not help the industry or the economy.

“It’s not a solution, the disastrous economic impact of that is something we are not going to be able to recover from.
Already about 20% of our taverns have already indicated that they will not be able to open doors once the lockdown has reached level zero. So, we are very concerned about that.”

Ntimane argued tighter controls or the shutdown of the liquor trade would lead to the growth of the illicit market.
He said that would mean less compliance with industry guidelines and irresponsible consumption.

The council is calling for a partnership with government to address challenges linked to alcohol abuse and its impact on the health sector.

Some officials in the alcohol industry are cautioning Ramaphosa against further restricting or re-banning the sale of alcohol when he addresses the nation on Sunday night.

For the first time in three weeks, Ramaphosa is set to deliver a national address on the latest plans surrounding the nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Alcohol was put on the agenda to be discussed by Ramaphosa's national coronavirus council as hospitals and clinics have experienced a drastic spike in trauma cases since the ban on the substance was partially lifted.

Over the past week members of the alcohol industry have been engaging with the Department of Trade and Industry and has been in talks with the Eastern Cape Premier, the liquor authority and the Western Cape MEC for safety.

Vinpro CEO Rico Basson said they have put measures in place and will maintain the commitments and undertakings around responsible trading, and the promotion of responsible consumption.

“We would like to caution against further restriction in sales. Across the value chain, the alcohol industry has prioritised the safety of its workforce and consumers by implementing safety and safe social distancing measures.”

Meanwhile, the South African Liquor Brand Owners' Association CEO Kurt Moore said additional restrictions on sales, including an outright ban, would likely increase panic buying and overcrowding at retail outlets.

“This would increase the risk of transmission of the virus and in addition to the increase in the risk of transmission, a further restriction on sales will have a disastrous economic impact on the industry and continue to exacerbate the loss of revenue for our government.”

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