Alcohol ban to continue after presidency rejects traders’ request to relax rules

President Cyril Ramaphosa says no to lifting alcohol ban during lockdown. Picture:  Linda Longhurst
President Cyril Ramaphosa says no to lifting alcohol ban during lockdown. Picture: Linda Longhurst

Government has rejected the request by the Gauteng Liquor Forum for its members to be allowed to sell alcohol during the national lockdown.

The State Attorney sent a formal letter to the forum to inform it’s members that the ban on alcohol sales would not be eased.

“The President [Cyril Ramaphosa] has carefully considered the representations made by the Gauteng Liquor Forum. These, however, have had to be weighed up against the imperative of all South African businesses and citizens to comply with the lockdown regulations, the health implications of consumption of alcohol and the priority to ensure social distancing during this principle,” the presidency said in a statement on Friday night.

According to the letter sent to Mabuza Attorneys on the president’s behalf, the decision was made in a meeting by the Covid-19 Command Council which sat earlier this week to consider the economic effects the lockdown on small business.

“During the discussion held this week, the National Command Council and Cabinet carefully considered inputs from all sectors and experts, including financial, social, economic, scientific and medical. Having done so the decision was made not to ease the sale of alcohol during the lockdown,” the letter read.

This was in response to a letter sent by the forum to Ramaphosa calling for government to ease the current alcohol ban and allow traders to offer limited services.

The forum’s lawyers explained that the limit on their clients’ trading hours, as was the case when the first Covid-19 coronavirus regulations were published on March 18, was acceptable.

Read: Wait until Friday, says Ramaphosa about demands to lift alcohol ban

However, a total ban of alcohol sales “unduly and unlawfully infringed” on their constitutional rights.

Before the full lockdown was implemented, liquor stores could operate from 9am to 6pm weekdays and 9am to 1pm on weekends.

The presidency noted that alcohol was not considered an essential item and was seen as a hindrance to the fight against the coronavirus.

“The president furthermore considered representations from other stakeholders who have pointed to the causal relationship between alcohol intoxication and abuse and risky behaviour,” the statement said.

The presidency instead directed all small businesses in the liquor industry to seek assistance provided by the Tourism Relief Fund, the department of small business development, the Unemployment Insurance Fund and private offerings such as the SA Future Trust, among others.

“These funds and institutions provide capped grant assistance to small, micro and medium enterprises to ensure sustainability during this period as well as support to employees of these enterprises,” the statements said.

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