Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE
Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

The government’s decision to extend alcohol sales for off-site consumption by only one extra day a week under level 2 of the lockdown went against the advice of scientists who opted for a full return to trading.

The SA Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba) pointed this out on Tuesday, citing an advisory note from the ministerial advisory committee (MAC) on Covid-19 dated September 6.

The single-day extension “imposed unnecessary restrictions on the sale of alcohol for off-site consumption”, Salba said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday that the easing of lockdown restrictions would allow the sale of alcohol for off-site consumption from Mondays to Fridays between 10am and 6pm.

The advisory committee recommended sales for off-site consumption be returned “to the usual hours of sale in terms of the Liquor Act”. It said “increasing the number of days for  alcoholic beverage sales for off-site consumption by only one day is difficult to justify, and a return to normal selling hours is preferable”.

“The decision by government to impose restrictions on alcohol sales without a clear scientific basis and advice can only serve to erode public confidence that these restrictions are implemented with genuine interest to contain the spread of infections and impact of Covid-19 on our society,” said Salba chair Sibani Mngadi.

“Salba has repeatedly called for the reasoning behind the decisions to prohibit or limit the sales and to understand better the thinking that informs such. But no explanation has been forthcoming from government.”

Salba CEO Kurt Moore said multiple bans on alcohol sales implemented during 2020 and 2021 had put jobs at risk in the nation’s informal and formal economy. 

“The country’s annualised GDP loss due to the prohibitions is about R51.9bn, and the tax revenue loss [excluding excise] to the fiscus from the value chain arising from the bans amounts to R29.3bn,” said Moore.

He said there had also been a significant rise in the illegal trade of alcohol.

“To put things into perspective, in 2020 the illicit market was worth R20.5bn, which is R6.5bn more than the R14bn budget the police service is allocated for criminal investigations. In 2020, the SA Revenue Service lost R11.3bn to the illicit alcohol trade. This is R1bn more than the R10.3bn allocated for Covid-19 vaccines.”

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