Government lifts alcohol sales ban

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The sale of alcohol has been lifted, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday following consultations with the National Coronavirus Command Council.

Ramaphosa said the sale of alcohol for off-site consumption would be allowed from Monday to Thursday between 10:00 and 18:00. On-site sales would be allowed from Monday as per licence conditions until 20:00.

Restaurants, shebeens and bars can sell alcohol up to 20:00. These outlets may only remain open until 21:00, with the general curfew remaining between 22:00 and 04:00.

South Africa has seen four alcohol bans since March 2020, lasting more than 160 days in total. The fourth one had been in place since 28 June.

"The payment of excise taxes by the alcohol sector will be deferred for a period of three months, to ease the burden on the sector as it recovers," Ramaphosa said.

He stated that these interventions were designed to "extend as much relief as possible to individuals and businesses that are in need of support, without compromising our fiscal sustainability".

According to the Beer Association of South Africa - which represents the Craft Brewers Association, Heineken South Africa and South African Breweries (SAB) – it has put almost 250 000 jobs at risk and cost the country's economy an estimated R64.8 billion. This week, a legal bid by SAB against government's latest alcohol sales ban was dismissed with costs by the Western Cape High Court.

Zoleka Lisa, vice president of corporate affairs at SAB said in a statement on Sunday that the decision to move South Africa to a level 3 lockdown "is an important step towards economic recovery".

"We look forward to reinitiating the process of job creation and responsible growth for the industry, with an ultimate objective of returning confidence to ensure sustainability for all these livelihoods," Lisa said. 

"We must now focus on economic recovery as we chart our way into the future. For our industry, the resumption of responsible trade is essential and we look forward to participating with our social and economic partners, both small and large, in safely reopening our sector."

Sibani Mngadi, chairperson of South African Liquor Brandowners Association, while welcoming the lifting of the ban said government’s use of prohibition "had devastating consequences".

"There was no justification for the prohibition—implemented with no warning, no consultation and poor empirical justification—that prevented legitimate businesses supporting more than 1,000,000 livelihoods across South Africa from operating. These include businesses in the agriculture, tourism, hospitality and manufacturing sectors, and importantly, hundreds of thousands of SMEs," Mngadi said.

"Right now, our focus is on economic recovery, and the role our industry can play is critical."

Ramaphosa also announced on Sunday night that gatherings – including religious gatherings and social events – may resume.

Indoor venues may not accommodate more than 50 people at a time or, for smaller venues, more than 50% of their normal capacity. Outdoor venues is limited to 100 outdoors.

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