Liquor industry hopes Ramaphosa will touch on booze policy at Sona

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance's Maurice Smithers said President Cyril Ramaphosa has to touch on alcohol policy to give certainty, precisely because of COVID-19.

Customers queue outside the Ultra Liquors in Wynberg, Cape Town following the relaxation of alcohol sale restrictions on 1 June 2020. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN

CAPE TOWN – The liquor industry wants clear policy direction when President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation Address on Thursday evening.

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance said it's particularly interested in hearing how government intends to act, following the African National Congress's January 8 statement on how to reduce the harmful use of alcohol through "legislative and other measures".

The industry and the restaurant sector have borne the brunt of lockdown restrictions following three alcohol bans.

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance is a network which aims to ensure civil society plays a role in addressing the challenge of harmonising and accelerating alcohol policy development in the region.

The association's director Maurice Smithers said President Cyril Ramaphosa has to touch on alcohol policy to give certainty, precisely because of COVID-19.

“That’s actually the very reason he would mention it and why it’s been spoken about so widely. It’s because alcohol has been a major factor in COVID, which is why we ended up with three bans and a series of court cases against government.”

He said the new Liquor Amendment Bill developed by Cabinet five years ago was still not finalised.

“They also drafted a new bill, the Liquor Amendment Bill, which is supposed to give effect to the recommendations of that alcohol policy. The problem is, of course, that Bill has been on hold.”

The South African Liquor Brand Owners Association also wants certainty, calling on government to work together with the industry to find a workable solution that protects lives, while preserving the livelihoods of around a million people who rely on the sector.

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