Amidst speculation that the government is considering implementing lockdown level two, the liquor industry is begging the government not to take food from its members’ mouths. The National Coronavirus Command Council met on Tuesday to discuss possible measures to fight the third wave of infections.
National Liquor Traders Council (NLTC) convener Luck Convener of the Y Ntimane said that due to increasing infections, speculation was rife that the Cabinet was considering announcing another round of restrictions on alcohol sales. The NLTC represents 39,900 liquor outlets including taverns and bottle stores. Ntimane said that banning alcohol as a strategy to deal with Covid-19 was not effective.
“People don’t stop drinking when you ban alcohol, they just find other channels to buy from,” he said “This is actually a gift to the illicit trade, at the expense of legal businesses built up over many years,” Ntimane questioned why the government wanted to make criminals rich at the expense of businesses that were compliant with Covid-19 safety measures and liquor licencing conditions.
“We’ve already had a total of 20 weeks of alcohol bans and many of our members have been forced to close their doors forever as a result,” he said. “We can all see that when alcohol sales are banned, the illicit traders grab the chance to push up their prices and find new customers.
“At the rate, we are going, the whole alcohol trade will end up going underground,” he warned. Ntimane said that the NTLC was helping spread the message that it was time for everyone to be vigilant.
“Taverners have been working with the alcohol industry to drastically improve compliance with Covid-19 protocols and liquor licence conditions,” he said. “We’ve increased the compliance from 75% in October last year to 89% in the latest audit. The problem at the moment is not alcohol, it’s people getting tired of listening to instructions from the authorities and not behaving correctly.”
The NTLC, along with the Liquor Traders Association of South Africa, has written a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, requesting a meeting to discuss sustainable solutions on how to support the government’s efforts to combat the pandemic.
“We wish to assure you that as liquor traders, we will continue to play our part in the fight against the spread of Covid-19 in the liquor trade and in the communities in which we operate,” the letter reads. “Thus far, we have been working closely with the liquor industry to drive maximum compliance with Covid-19 safety protocols among taverners and their patrons.
“This includes hiring Community Policing Forum members to enhance safety in and around taverns and conduct inspections to check on compliance to Covid-19 protocols and liquor licence conditions,” the letter also stated.