Johannesburg – Political parties have taken a united stand to oppose calls by the liquor industry for the government to lift its ban on the sale of alcohol during the lockdown which President Cyril Ramaphosa has since extended by two weeks.
This follows weekend calls by the Gauteng Liquor authority for the government to relax its ban on the sale of liquor.
The organisation, which represents 20 000 shebeen and tavern owners, also threatened to take legal action against Ramaphosa at the Constitutional Court, telling him that he had until today to relax the ban.
Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said the Presidency had noted the representations made by the Gauteng Liquor Forum to Ramaphosa.
“In essence, the board has raised concerns about the economic impact the restriction of the sale of liquor has on its clients. Concerns regarding the potential economic impact of lockdown measures, not only on liquor traders but small businesses in general, are receiving the necessary requisite attention from the government.”
She said there were a number of associations who also operated in the liquor industry who had distanced themselves from the call to relax the lockdown regulations, understanding the need for these measures at this time.
“Nonetheless, the Cabinet will be meeting during the course of the week to discuss details of the government’s economic assistance programme. Such discussions will obviously have a bearing on the Gauteng Liquor Forum’s clients and other small businesses. The Presidency will therefore await the outcome of those discussions before commenting further on this matter,” said Diko.
The forum’s call has been criticised by political parties who have said that the unbanning of the sale of alcohol would be detrimental to the government’s efforts to drastically reduce the spread of the virus in the country.
South Africa’s Ramaphosa extends coronavirus lockdown by two weeks
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announces that the nationwide lockdown is to be extended for an additonal two week period beyond the initial 21 days.
EFF spokesperson Vuyani Pambo said that the sale of alcohol during the war against Covid-19 to communities with historic, existing problems of access to adequate health care, malnutrition and general hunger only served one purpose, “to finish our people off”.
Pambo said the EFF was prepared to assemble a powerful legal team to face the Gauteng Liquor Forum head on by opposing any court application it planned to bring before the courts to get the sale of alcohol unbanned during the lockdown. “The EFF calls on the government to unequivocally oppose the relaxation of alcohol restrictions. We must refuse to be drawn into a general conspiracy for mass murder by the alcohol industry. Long has this industry benefited out of the destruction of life, in particular the lives of the poor majority which are blacks,” said Pambo.
African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) deputy president Wayne Thring said that it was fully behind the banning of the sale and movement of alcohol as it also contributed significantly to social ills that were plaguing the country, including accidents and crime.
He said that many incidents of gender-based violence were also alcohol related and that law-enforcement officials who dealt with the aftermath of alcohol abuse incidents could corroborate this.
The ANC’s Pule Mabe said the ruling party had frowned upon the liquor industry’s calls for the unbanning of the sale of liquor. “It is incumbent upon all South Africans to really play their part in assisting the government to deal with this devastating pandemic,” Mabe said.
He called on the business community to take advantage of measures announced by the government to mitigate against the detrimental effects of the lockdown on their operations. This included accessing small business debt relief and business growth facilities, to which the government had allocated millions of rand.
“We are also encouraged by the initiative of private-sector entities, including banks, which have also introduced relief measures such as payment holidays on various finance products,” said Mabe.
Eric Mabuza, the Gauteng Liquor Forum’s lawyer, said they were expecting a response from Ramaphosa before close of business today.
“We can’t file before they tell us what their position is. If they don’t come back to us after tomorrow (today), we will proceed with filing papers on Wednesday or thereabout,” Mabuza said.
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By Samkelo Mtshali