The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
At the end of 2020, a matter of days before New Year’s Eve, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would be ringing in the new year sans alcohol.
We expected another alcohol ban as the country’s festive season had already been tainted by a record number of Covid-19 infections (surpassing one million), partly driven by a new strain of the deadly virus.
The alcohol ban was, once again, an attempt to bring down the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions as healthcare facilities grapple with an unending stream of patients and a shortage of oxygen.
What it means for the industry
On the face of it, a total ban on liquor sales seems like a sensible way to put an end to unnecessary hospital visits, but it doesn’t come without its consequences. As BizNews Editor Jackie Cameron recently reported, the alcohol ban has knocked South Africa’s glass packaging industry, which could lose a further R1.5bn in sales if the ban continues.
“The ANC just don’t understand that things like glass furnaces cannot just be shut down and restarted at their whim… it’s a huge and VERY costly operation to stop and restart furnaces in this industry which runs 24/7. Eventually the investors and shareholders in this business will also get so so pissed off they will sell out rand, move on, resulting in closure and then the forced importation of bottles and other glass products! Think ‘comrades’… for a change, before you ruin yet another important free market business and contributor to the funding of your marxist regime,” writes BizNews reader
There will soon be lots of nice bankrupt businesses for ANC members to buy cheaply. This is not class suicide but it is economic murder.”
The Liquor Traders Formation, which represents liquor outlets, said that they had proposed curfew measures and alcohol restrictions that would still allow off-premise sales for home consumption. This is because a complete shutdown of liquor sales would mean “an end to the tavern market and the 250,000 direct jobs linked to the sector”.
Earlier this year, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s South African division challenged the alcohol ban in court, saying it is unconstitutional. SA Breweries (SAB) stated that it supported a reduction in trading times, but that a prohibition is “beyond what is reasonable and necessary”. According to SAB, the first two bans (which together lasted more than three months) led to more than 160,000 job cuts. They also demonstrated that restricting the legal trade of alcohol fuels the growth of the illicit market.
We can not afford our dear SABS shutting its door, its too valuable
— Agent007 (@bamch2) January 8, 2021
Is an outright alcohol ban the best move?
The overriding response from the community seems to be one of anger and disbelief, with some readers offering a healthy dose of cynicism to keep things interesting.
“This bunch (ANC) couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery. Mucking forons,” writes
Not to worry, ANC mates will buy up bankrupt companies at rock bottom prices.”
The situation faced by small business owners and craft brewers is dire and that the last two alcohol bans had a devastating impact on the beer industry with an estimated 7,400 jobs lost. Regulation is better than banning.
— flower (@nigel0401) January 10, 2021
It’s been 1 day in 3 for the last 10
months, that we’ve been cut off from selling wine. This, in the wine industry, that is intertwined with jobs in toursim and hospitality. #SaveSAWine #AlcoholBan pic.twitter.com/bNnZ81dWHa
— Nick Pentz (@NickPentz) January 18, 2021
It’s ridiculous how we’re letting the economy crumble like this. No alternatives at all. Offsite consumption and regulated trading hours could really set us ahead alone. #SaveJobs
— THE ALCHEMIST (@7ash_ley) January 18, 2021
I failed to consider sectors in the economy like tourism and hospitality that have been affected by the alcohol ban. Mr. President something has to give.
— YT: Desire_luu (@desire_luu) January 18, 2021
Every where I go it’s property for sale most of the places l used have a drink at are closed and on sale 😢#AlcoholBan
— Shizzlebae (@shizzlebae) January 17, 2021
Some readers have even offered their own alternative solutions.
Let’s stop the needless suffering of thousands of South Africa’s brought by the alcohol ban by regulation trading hours of alcohol as opposed to complete ban
— james (@james50966050) January 8, 2021
The #AlcoholBan remains one of the most unpopular yet positively impactful regulation to be done during this covid time,I hope it stays on beyond Valentines day
— Ntate_Sam (@Ntt_Sam) January 15, 2021
Will the ban be lifted after 15 February 2021? Many South Africans are certainly hoping so.
Do you agree with the ban on alcohol sales? Add your voice to the discussion below.
- How South Africa’s alcohol ban has hit brewing giant AB InBev – Wall Street Journal
- How winemaker Ntsiki Biyela survived alcohol ban with exports
- Alcohol ban risks billions in investment; at least 117,000 jobs lost
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.