Distell, maker of some of SA’s most well-known wine, cider and alcohol brands, has said it is “deeply concerned about increasing criminality” after its Springs plant was robbed on Sunday.

Criminals made off with about R1m worth of alcohol, at retail prices, in two trucks on Sunday morning.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a ban on the sale of alcohol on July 12 with the aim of reducing trauma patients injured by drunk driving and alcohol-fuelled violence. It was expected that Covid-19 patients would overwhelm hospitals.

Distell said in a statement that it was “working with the government  to restore trade where lives are protected, livelihoods are safeguarded and criminality in all its forms are tackled”.

The alcohol ban has resulted in a 15.4% and 23.3% decline in revenue and sales volumes respectively, from July 1 2019 to June 19 2020 compared to a year earlier. This period included the initial nine-week ban on liquor trade.

The alcohol industry has called for lifting of the ban citing huge job losses due to lack of trade.

In a separate statement the alcohol industry, representing 2,500 wine farms under VinPro, and the beer and spirits producers, has argued there was no need to ban alcohol sales to free up hospital beds given that hospitals are not overwhelmed.

Hospital capacity at two of the provinces hardest hit by the coronavirus Western Cape and Gauteng were at 70% and 57%, respectively.

The SA medical research council (SAMRC) president Glenda Gray has said the ban must be lifted.

Director of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit at the SAMRC, Charles Parry, modelled how an alcohol sales ban would reduce trauma admissions, but he too does not support a complete prohibition.

Sibani Mngadi, spokesperson for the alcohol industry, said “19 days since that economically devastating decision to ban alcohol with immediate effect, the SAMRC is advising the government differently.”

He said the government “needs to urgently open talks for the orderly reopening of alcohol trade to prevent further losses of jobs and revenue for both the state and business”. 

More than R19bn in revenue and R3.4bn in excise tax was lost during the first phase of the ban of alcohol sales.

The industry said the first prohibition of alcohol sales in April and May resulted in more than 100,000 job losses.

It has asked the finance ministry to defer the payment of R5bn in tax currently due until the ban on alcohol sales has been lifted.



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