Cosatu to govt: Find the money to help businesses hit by level 4 lockdown

On Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced new restrictions that mainly impact businesses in the hospitality, alcohol, and service industries in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

DURBAN/CAPE TOWN - There are now questions about the survival of businesses affected by the country's latest lockdown regulations, with government saying it's unable to come to their rescue.

On Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced new restrictions that mainly impact businesses in the hospitality, alcohol, and service industries in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.

While the Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) said government must provide some relief for affected businesses, the state said it had no money.

Cosatu secretary-general Bheki Ntshalintshali argued that government must find money to provide relief to businesses affected by the lockdown if it’s committed to resuscitating the country’s ailing economy.

“Money has to be found, reprioritisation. We are not asking for those companies to be funded to make a profit, we ask to keep them afloat and don’t destroy them forever.”

Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the request by Cosatu was not currently feasible.

“What we are saying is when a person is dead, you can’t resuscitate. But when you lost a job, it will be rebuilt tomorrow or the other day.”

Ntshavheni said government would be able to reprioritise funds if unions withdrew their demands for salary increments.

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Meanwhile, the Beer Association of SA said it's seeking legal advice following government's decision to impose an outright alcohol ban.

The association said this could just be the final nail in the coffin for an estimated 1 million workers in the beer industry's value chain.

The association said it could no longer be the scapegoat for government's inefficiency to successfully roll out its vaccination drive or to explore alternatives methods of dealing with the resurgence.

CEO Patricia Pillay said the three prior alcohol bans resulted in the loss of 7,400 jobs in the sector, R14.2 billion in lost sales revenue, while R7.8 billion was lost in taxes and excise duties.

"All our proposals have really fallen on deaf ears and it is going to be that final nail, and I call it the poverty coffin because I feel more people will now start dying from poverty than COVID."

Pillay said this regulation would only see the illicit alcohol industry thrive.

She said the illegal trade had amounted to R11.3 billion being lost to last year's fiscus, money that could have been used towards ramping up the nation's vaccination drive.

"A legal industry like ourselves continues to get locked down, so it's all of these elements which we will get advised on, you know, in terms of whether this has been the right decision for the livelihoods of a whole industry, especially since we don't receive any kind of support, compensation, relief as an industry."

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