Advertorial | The devastating economic impact of the alcohol ban

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The effect of the alcohol ban in numbers:

  • 1.1 million – the number of jobs at risk;
  • 117 000 – jobs lost in July due to the suspension of sales;
  • 3 out of every 5 – taverns, bars, restaurants and shops will be forced to close;
  • 192 000 – people rely on taverns for their livelihood;
  • 54% - the number of woman-owned taverns;
  • R19 billion – the money lost to the government due to the ban.


The alcohol ban imposed by the government during the Covid-19 lockdown has far more profound implications than just us being grumpy because we cannot pop down to the local tavern or bottlestore for our favourite tipple. It affects more people than just wine farmers or tavern owners. An entire support industry is facing ruin, hundreds of thousands of jobs are on the line and the fiscus is losing billions of rands.

You would have seen the conversations happening online around the hashtags #BanTheBan #SaveMyLivelihood and #LightSARed.

For more on the #SaveMyLivelihood campaign and to submit your story, go to savemylivelihood.com

We talk to two people affected to see just how devastating the economic impact of the ban is.

Thapelo Mokoena: microbrewer, restauranteur, actor and wine lover

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How did you become involved in the alcohol industry?

It was never my plan to go into the liquor industry. As life would have it, I met my partners and got to know their business and passions. They were open people who were happy to share their business plans with me. The transparency opened me up to their structures and I immediately trusted in my ability to bring more value to the businesses. I decided to invest and join in their business, in addition I brought all my resources to the table - that’s where the value is. 

How has the alcohol ban affected you?

It has been nothing short of disastrous and traumatic for our young businesses. It’s part of business to deal with unforeseen circumstances, but as we all can agree this is a whole new level for mankind. No amazing writer could’ve scripted this version of events. It’s an incredibly tough time. It’s always all about finding solutions, however this current ban has immediately put a stop to that vision. We are on month five and you can only imagine what this means for our staff.

How has this impacted on your employees?

We have faced the toughest time when it comes to employees. To fight to keep every single one of them has been our plan from day 1. We went from paying salaries to now putting together grocery packs. All while our taproom doors are closed. There is no justifying why we’re closed in a time where we should be safely recovering from the lost months of work.

You are also an actor, so this pandemic has dealt you a double blow?

One must always plan for tomorrow, but one never expects “tomorrow” to be half the year. It has been real tough not making the usual money. I also have international projects signed on for a full 12 months ahead, so the delay in production has literally put a stop to my earnings. As it stands there are no effective solutions for both these industries, and we are on our own. Zero real economic solutions for these vital industries. An artist is a flag bearer for any country, We are the voices and faces that portray the times we live in, this can’t happen when there’s no longer a roof over our head. The approach to this ban has been incredibly flawed, reckless and damaging.

How have you adapted to this new world we live in?

I’ve gone and strengthened my businesses from the root. This season for me meant working hard to make sure my businesses survive, but most importantly determining whether I still have relevant business offerings in the #NewNormal. Luckily, none of my businesses had to shut down, instead with a lot of hard work we have the potential to become the strongest and most relevant players in our respective industries. The optimism has never left us, but as it stands our leaders are challenging our growth, our potential and our future in these businesses. 

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Oscar Ponto: importer and exporter of fine wines

You are one of the top alcohol beverage specialists in the country, what got you there?

I import Champagne and distribute it on the African continent and also export South African wines to the world, my focus being on promoting black-owned alcohol brands. I seek to create profitable sales growth for the liquor manufactures and marketers by expanding their customers base and developing compelling and persuasive pitches to attract new customers to the business and to encourage existing customers to purchase more products through a combination of advertising, publishing, education, direct customer engagement and online avenues.

How has the alcohol ban impacted you and your business? 

The ban has affected my business tremendously. Since the start of the alcohol ban in March till now, I have lost between R6 -7 million in profits.  

How have you managed, if at all, to support yourself and your loved ones during this time?

I haven’t been able to. What hurts me most is that I’m unable to pay for my elderly father’s chronic medication and weekly private healthcare visits.  

You are very vocal about the alcohol ban, why does it matter so much?

It is very important because the alcohol industry supports 944 149 direct and indirect jobs, it supports 35 000 township SME’s with estimated total sales turnover of R137 billion. So, it really affects everyone in the value chain from agriculture to retail.  

Do you think people are adequately informed about the industry and especially its role in the economy? 

Not at all. People don’t know that the industry contributes R400 million per week to SARS in excise taxes, R1.3 billion total industry tax per week, R2 billion per week to GDP. And contributions are used to finance the social programmes of government like social grants, building of houses and paying for education.  Around 117 000 jobs have been lost in the liquor industry for the month of July and 13 000 jobs are at risk per week as long as the ban is enforced. It will basically take the industry 5 – 6 years to recover and I don’t see those lost jobs being created again.   
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