By Skylar Thoma
MAIN IMAGE: The sale of alcoholic drinks is currently banned in South Africa under the nationwide lockdown. The lobby group Gauteng Liquor Forum has demanded that government lift the ban or face legal action. SOURCE: Pexels.com.
More than 20,000 liquor license holders will have to wait until the end of the week to know whether their appeal to the government to be allowed to restart sales of alcohol will be approved.
The traders, all members of the Gauteng Liquor Forum, have lobbied the government’s to lift its ban on the sale of alcohol, and has threatened to go to court if the government does not take action on the issue by Thursday.
On Tuesday, the Office of the State Attorney in Pretoria issued a response to the demand, requesting an extension until Friday for an official decision.
The government has acknowledged that the lockdown restrictions are creating economic hardship for business owners across the country and talks are under way to considering what steps can be taken to alleviate the situation. It is widely believed that this may include a partial easing of some restrictions.
The economic impact extends beyond alcohol traders. Tax Justice South Africa claimed on Twitter that the government has lost 650 million Rand in taxes that would have been charged on alcohol and cigarette products.
Despite outrage among some drinkers and traders, the Minister of Police Bheki Cele has been adamant that the ban will not be lifted. Cele expressed his anger when the Western Cape provincial government suggested it might lift the ban on cigarette sales in its province.
“What happens in Limpopo is expected to be done in the Western Cape”, he stated at a press briefing on April 2.
The ban was instituted on March 27 as part of the lockdown regulations – in an attempt to reduce social gatherings involving alcohol, and thereby contribute to South Africa’s efforts to ‘flatten the curve’ of its coronavirus infection spread. In a statement to SABC News on April 7, Cele said the ban had led to a decrease in crime.
Instances of violent crime have indeed declined during the lockdown, especially for murders and rapes, reports The South African.
But there has also been an increase in looting of alcohol stores and illegal trading of liquor and tobacco products. IOL reports that 17 liquor stores had been looted in Cape Town alone as of Tuesday this week. Minister Cele has also expressed concern about reports that police officers have been caught and arrested for participating in illicit trading, according to Reuters.
Some South Africans are trying to find a way around the ban by brewing their alcohol at home. A search on Twitter for “pineapple beer” turns up numerous recipes that people have developed while under lockdown.
The issue of the ban on alcohol and cigarettes has divided South Africans, with people taking to Twitter to express their views. A petition has also been started in opposition to the movement to un-ban the sale of alcohol. It had about 2700 signatures as of Tuesday.