After President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the sudden second ban of all alcohol products in South Africa on Sunday 12 July, alcohol manufacturers and restaurant owners vowed to not take the recent ban lying down. Ramaphosa stated that the reason behind the sudden ban is due to the shortage of hospital beds and the rising of alcohol related incidents.
The President said trauma cases in hospitals had increased dramatically since the first alcohol ban was lifted under level 3, leading to a shortage of beds for virus patients.
Alcohol manufacturers are concerned about the retrenchments that will follow after the renewed ban on the sale of alcohol.
Chief executive of alcoholic drinks maker Distell, Richard Rushton, told City Press that the ban had left the alcohol industry in a dire situation, and added that they feared that thousands of workers would be retrenched as a result.
“Government has lost R3.5 billion in taxes [because of the ban]. From the 945,000 direct and indirect jobs in the industry, 110,000 were lost in the first part of the lockdown. And, if the ban continues, about 13,000 jobs will be lost per week,” he said.
Rushton said small businesses, including those propping up the township economy, could face bankruptcy by the ban.
The SA Liquor Brand Owners Association’s chief executive, Kurt Moore, said they were reaching out to the government to sit down and jointly reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
“The decision to ban alcohol sales spells a potential disaster for the industry, and job losses loom. We had made several commitments and we agreed with government ahead of the reopening of the supply chain on June 1 that we would help to enable a safe environment for the sale of alcohol,” Moore told City Press. “The immediate enforcement of the ban [of alcohol sales] will have other unintended consequences, which include further job losses throughout the value chain,” Moore said.
The restaurant industry is planning a “million seats on the street” protest this week to object to the ban.
Many restaurant owners spoke out on this issue affecting not only their business but also their employees. Shireen Jones, the owner of the Duck and Dive Restaurant in Malelane, Mpumalanga, said that the alcohol ban had brought her business to a standstill. “The profit margin of food is minimal and it’s higher on the alcohol. Failure to sell alcohol affects everything because people are not coming to sit down if they can’t order a glass of wine,” Jones said.
Wendy Alberts, the Restaurant Association of SA’s chief executive, told City Press that their lawyers were drawing up court papers to compel the liquor board to pay back a portion of the fees.
“This regulation has taken the food out of my children’s mouths, and my staff now are also part of the unemployment statistics because government makes decisions not caring how they impact on us, regardless of how we follow regulations.”
Russ Meyer, the owner of Mash Tun Restaurant in Woodstock, Cape Town, said government had allowed taxis to operate at full capacity, while the restaurant industry had been forced to shrink.
Another stressing matter that effects all employees is the Covis-19 relief fund. Meyer stated that he employs 34 people and only five had benefited from government’s Covid-19 relief fund.
“They have simply ignored the rest [of the staff]. Those ‘benefits’ will cease at the end of this month, even though our industry will, in all likelihood, be crippled by government [regulations] for much longer.
“This sudden and shocking announcement [to ban the sale of alcohol] with immediate effect meant that our members had to engage employers at night to understand if they were going to work the following day. Workers [feared they] may be accused of being absent,” said Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) general secretary Mayoyo Mngomezulu.
Mngomezulu added that small and largely black-owned businesses would be hit the hardest by the ban as they suffered major financial losses, while “government has taken no initiative or said nothing about them”.
Fawu called on the government to issue a moratorium on retrenchments, job cuts, and the associated reduction of salaries and benefits.