As the third wave becomes a reality in many parts of South Africa, it seems that we are heading for a clash of heads between the Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) and a lobby group which is called the South African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA). While the former has advised the government to take recent research, lives, and livelihoods into consideration when making decisions regarding the third wave, the latter has called on restrictions to be imposed on the alcohol trade as a way of combating the spread of the pandemic. The lobbyists have also taken a swipe at the BLSA for their long-standing opposition to new legislation regarding the trade in alcohol.
BLSA chief executive Busi Mavuso said that “Bans, curfews, and shutdowns are hugely damaging and have a questionable impact on public health. Let us get the balance right.” In addition, BLSA said that sense needs to prevail when looking at possible restrictions to combat the third wave. On the other hand, SAAPA has insisted that government prohibits major alcohol-fueled party events, including street parties, and reduces the gathering numbers to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors. The group further advised the government to extend the curfew from midnight to 22h00, seven days a week while also recommending that all on-consumption liquor outlets be closed from 18h00 on public holidays and one day prior to public holidays to discourage the excessive use of alcohol in overcrowded venues and to limit the potential for ‘super-spreaders events.
SAAPA also advised the central government to disallow alcohol consumption in public places, particularly in parks, on beaches, at swimming pools, etc. Furthermore, the group called on the government to revoke the licenses of those outlets that were found to be in contravention of the Covid-19 regulations. An important recommendation made to the government by the group was that they should temporarily impose zero breath and blood concentration levels for drivers during the State of Disaster – such a measure is already contained in the Road Traffic Amendment Bill which is currently before Parliament and has wide-spread support but won’t be enacted before the end of 2021. The group further called on the government to ban both special offers for reduced price alcoholic beverages and all alcohol advertising except at the point of sale at least until the end of the State of Disaster to reduce the pressure on people to drink.
BLSA’s Mavuso, on the other hand, advised the government that, in the last lockdowns, a lot of damage was done to business as many of the lockdowns were open-ended and left businesses without the capacity to plan for themselves and their employees. As a result, they said, the industry had lost well over R36 billion while the fiscus had lost millions in excise duties. In response, however, SAAPA said that the alcohol industry only had itself to blame for the way in which it had gone against the formulation of legislation to do with trade in alcohol.