'Disturbing and detrimental'- alcohol industry fumes over no health recommendation for third ban

South Africa has had three bans on alcohol sales over the past year.
South Africa has had three bans on alcohol sales over the past year.

South Africa’s liquor industry has raised concerns about the government’s rationale for the contentious third ban on the sale of alcohol.

South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) chairperson Sibani Mngadi said the government’s move to ban alcohol sales at the time, going outside of the health experts’ recommendations, was "disturbing". He explained that the Ministerial Advisory Council (MAC) had recommended restrictions on the sale of liquor for off-site consumption but not an outright ban.

"Despite the endorsement of this by the Department of Health, the government imposed a complete ban on all alcohol sales. This had a hugely detrimental impact on the industry," Mngadi said in a statement on Wednesday.

Salba’s statement follows the government’s publication of the MAC notes that informed some of the National Coronavirous Commmand Council’s decisions, ahead of its third ban on the sale of alcohol from 28 December 2020 to 1 February. The memo, which was published by the National Department of Health on 23 December, recommended a Level 2 lockdown, a curfew and restrictions on gatherings but did not make any mention of a ban on liquor sales. 

The industry has been a odds with the government over the bans on liquor sales, questioning the rationale and calling for it to share the data it used. The state had imposed the bans to keep hospital beds clear of alcohol related trauma cases and available to Covid-19 patients.

"We were assured by the President that decisions were based on recommendations from the scientific advisers on the MAC," he said. 

He bemoaned the impact of the ban, saying that it put more than 200 000 liquor industry jobs at risk, as well as R36.3 billion in sales revenue.

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