The extension of level 3 lockdown regulations, which prohibit the sale and distribution of alcohol, has been described as the death knell for many small craft brewers by the Beer Association of SA (Basa).
The move, announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night, was unfortunate for thousands of brewers who have suffered huge financial losses since the start of the first lockdown.
“It is a great shame that government has embarked on this action with very little consultation and very little thought given to their plight,” said Basa CEO Patricia Pillay.
The association said it rejected the extension of the alcohol ban as brewers would not be able to survive.
“Already, 30% of local breweries have been forced to permanently shut their doors and 165,000 people have already lost their jobs. An extended ban on alcohol will destroy many of the remaining small businesses while doing untold economic damage to the beer sector in general, and the 415,000 livelihoods it supports.
“Over 100,000 people have already slid into poverty because of the alcohol ban in the beer industry alone,” said Pillay.
Ramaphosa said the move was necessary and would remain in place “until we have passed the peak of new infections”.
However, the association said saving lives should not be at the expense of their livelihoods.
“We are well aware of the immense pressure Covid-19 has placed on our health-care system and the need for urgent interventions to curb the spread of the virus, however, this cannot be at the expense of people’s livelihoods,” said Pillay.
“Our members, especially small business owners and their employees, now have no way to put food on the table, and care for their loved ones who may also fall ill.”
Pillay said an urgent meeting with the presidency and various ministries would be called “to unpack the rationale being used” for the extension of the ban and its implications for the beer sector.
“We will also resubmit our proposals to encourage moderate, responsible consumption. We will also reiterate our proposal for off-site consumption trade to be resumed within the framework of the existing curfew, restriction on gatherings and events,” she said.
The association has in the past weeks made impassioned pleas to the president to allow the sale of alcohol under strict conditions as thousands of people rely on them to make a living.
Last week, it highlighted the plight of small business owners and craft brewers who now stand to lose everything due to the third ban on alcohol sales. Among these are Lethu Tshabangu from Ukhamba Beerworx whose business will not be able to survive till the end of the month and will have to advise employees not to expect salaries at the end of January.
Tshabangu has acquired R300,000 in debt after opening a new taproom at Makers Landing at the V&A Waterfront — he has rental fees which he cannot pay as he is unable to sell any stock.
“We need to fight Covid-19 without starting other fires — the president is protecting us from Covid-19, only to kill us with hunger because we are not allowed to work,” said Tshabangu.
Another brewer, Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela of Brewsters Craft, also stands to lose everything. She had hoped to reopen soon to make a few sales to be able to pay employees but this will no longer be the case.
“We are also deeply concerned that the legitimate beer sector will never recover from this extended ban, providing a further boost to those who engaged in the illicit manufacture and trade of alcohol,” added Pillay.
“Already before Covid-19, World Health Organisation estimates indicated that a quarter (24%) of all alcohol consumed in SA was sold illicitly. We believe that illicit trading will now increase as criminal syndicates begin to entrench themselves.”
By Nonkululeko Njilo – TimesLIVE