SAAPA urges ‘alcohol giant’ SAB to withdraw court challenge and ‘help the little guy’

The liquor alliance has urged South Africans to support the ban and to work together to minimise the spreading of Covid-19.

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) has called on “the alcohol giants” operating within the liquor industry in the country to use “some of their vast financial reserves to support the small businesses” within the sector, in the wake of the ban on the sale of alcohol and the adverse impact it would have on the industry.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday that the ban on the sale of alcohol implemented to help curb the spread of Covid-19 would be extended until 15 February.

The alliance said although it did not “actively promote” the ban, it “accepts that it may be necessary as a temporary emergency measure in certain circumstances”.

The alliance further said it was aware that Covid-19 had had a “devastating financial impact” on not only the liquor industry but on South Africa’s economy as a whole as well.

“We believe government should be assisting all licensed outlets with financial relief where possible. The alcohol giants operating in our country should also be using some of their vast financial reserves to support the small businesses that comprise a large part of their industry,” SAAPA board chair Maurice Smithers said.

Smithers said the alliance was of the view that the Department of Small Business Development and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition should do a great deal more to help alcohol traders to move “to other more stable and socially beneficial economic activities”.

Smithers said that sources within organisations in the sector had indicated that small alcohol traders went into the business “out of desperation, not out of choice”.

“Apartheid’s exclusion of the black community from meaningful participation in the country’s economy continues to affect the ability of some communities to take full advantage of the economic opportunities available in post-apartheid South Africa, with many resorting to subsistence activities such as running shebeens or tuck shops from their homes as a last resort,” Smithers said.

The alliance wants the government to adopt “tougher measures to reduce alcohol-related harm permanently” and not only during a time of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“That’s why we are calling for government to reactivate the Liquor Amendment Bill process to ensure that the Liquor Act of 2003 is replaced by more effective legislation, based on the Liquor Policy of 2016, which itself is aligned to the World Health Organization’s [WHO’s] global strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm,” Smithers said.

SAAPA expressed support for the extension of the ban “as we believe it was not taken lightly and the National Coronavirus Command Council would have considered all alternative options before proposing the extension”.

The alliance urged South Africans to support the ban and to work together to minimise the spreading of Covid-19.

“We also call on SAB to withdraw their court challenge to the ban, it is not helpful and threatens to undermine government’s efforts to contain the pandemic,” Smithers said.