South Africa bans alcohol sales again

The South African government has reinstated its controversial ban on domestic alcohol sales as the industry reports revenue loss of R18 billion (£852.8 million).


Update: The alcohol ban was lifted on 17 August. You can read our latest story here.

Addressing the nation on Sunday (12 July) night, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the decision had been made in order to free-up hospital beds occupied by those suffering from alcohol-related traumas.

“As we head towards the peak of infections, it is vital that we do not burden our clinics and hospitals with alcohol-related injuries that could have been avoided,” he said.

“This is a fight to save every life, and we need to save every bed. We have therefore decided that in order to conserve hospital capacity, the sale, dispensing and distribution of alcohol will be suspended with immediate effect.”

He added that there was now “clear evidence” that a resumption of alcohol sales “has resulted in substantial pressure being put on hospitals, including trauma and ICU units, due to motor vehicle accidents, violence and related trauma”.

South African industry groups including the South African Liquor Brandowners’ Association (SALBA), the Beer Association of South Africa (BASA), VinPro, Liquor Traders Association of South Africa (LTASA) and the Liquor Traders Council of South Africa (LTCSA) said the resumption of the ban on sales would affect up to one million people working as part of the “liquor industry value chain”.

The groups said they were “disappointed” with the decision, which they said had been made with “no warning” despite their “continuous engagement” with the government and the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC).

They called the move “deeply troubling” and reiterated that the South African alcohol industry shares the government’s concerns about rising Covid-19 cases, and would “continue to support efforts to curb this unprecedented health emergency”.

“While we acknowledge the urgency of the situation, it is crucial to understand the complexity of alcohol-related trauma so that we can sharpen our focus on the most effective interventions and also measure their impact against a shared understanding of the facts and the problems. This requires access to health and alcohol related information in private and public sector hospitals and clinics which government has never shared with industry,” the statement noted.

SALBA CEO Kurt Moore said the ban would have a “disastrous economic impact on the industry and continue to exacerbate the loss of excise revenue”, warning that the move would “fuel the growth in the illicit liquor market”.

A statement from VinPro added: “The decision to suspend local liquor sales will deal a devastating blow to the South African wine industry, which has already suffered great financial and job losses due to bans earlier in the lockdown.”

It has been reported that during the nine-week lockdown, the South African alcohol industry has lost R18 billion in revenue (£852.8 million) and R3.4 billion (£142.1m) in excise tax. The loss of excise tax is a direct result of increasing sales of illegal alcohol products which don’t pay taxes.

VinPro reports that, prior to the second alcohol sales ban, it was estimated that around 18,000 jobs (out of a total of 300,000) in the South African wine industry together with almost 80 wineries and 350 grape growers were at risk following the export and sales disruption. It is estimated that the wine industry alone has already suffered direct losses of R3 billion (£142.1m).

While the domestic sale, dispensation and transportation of alcohol is forbidden, the country is still permitted to export alcoholic beverages. Alcohol used in the production of hand sanitiser is permitted to travel around the country, while members of the industry can transfer products from manufacturing facilities to storage sites if required.

While exports are not impacted, Wines of South Africa stated that producers are being affected “by reduced logistics at ports and adverse weather”.

In addition to the alcohol ban, the country has now instated a night-time curfew between the hours of 9pm and 4am, while masks must now been worn at all times while in public places.

Ramaphosa said that current projections indicate the country will reach the peak of infections between the end of July and late September.

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country has now risen to 276,242, with over 12,000 recorded each day. Over 4,000 people have now died from the virus in South Africa, with the province of Gauteng now the worst affected region with almost 100,000 confirmed cases.

The national state of emergency in the country has now been extended to 15 August.

Previous restrictions

An initial ban on alcohol exports was announced on 25 March and came into effect at midnight on 26 March. This was then lifted on 7 April, only to be reinstated on 16 April.

Exports resumed from Friday 1 May, while the government eased restrictions on domestic alcohol sales last month. Retailers were permitted to sell alcohol on four days per week.

Back in April, Wines of South Africa estimated the export disruption could result in revenue loss of over R1 billion (£44 million, FOB value).

Jo Wehring, UK market manager for Wines of South Africa, told the drinks business: “Although there was a short period when exports could resume during the five week lockdown, very little was exported as the port in Cape Town was operating at around 25% capacity.”

19 Responses to “South Africa bans alcohol sales again”

  1. Letjhelekwane says:

    It is really disappointing to see that our government and policing departments failed to bring to book just few individuals who cannot adhere to covid-19 regulations, and decided to close the entire industry without any notice while on the other hand are giving in to taxi bullies, what about hundreds of people working in this liquor industry. You cannot punish the entire house because of one spoiled kid bad behavior.

  2. Fernando Feijo says:

    Governments always transfer the one responsibility to a third party.
    Road accidents , people behaviour; who shall control the situation?
    The top problem is that authorities are doing nothing.
    But it is easy to transfer to those who feed the government with a substantial about of money from the taxes. And now what is coming?Businesses and sales breakdown , unemployment, illegal alcohol sales.
    Please think about and follow the common sense.

  3. Mike Feldon says:

    The vast majority of South Africans 99%? have behaved as instructed, now we are treated look naughty children because a handful of delinquents cannot behave, punish the idiots not all of us who know how to drink responsible
    Very disappointing

  4. Pierre says:

    I agree all the way with Letjhelekwane. It is true that the govermant want to punish all S.A Citizens for a few people that does not want to adhere to the given law and now innocent people that works in the alcohol industry is going to lose their jobs because of just 3 words the president uttered, that is: “With Immediate Effect”. This is cruel and the way I see it is that they love to blame Alcohol first instead of looking at those individuals first that don’t wear masks in public and deliberately attending occasions with more than 50 to 100 people. Now all must suffer

    • Martie du Plessis says:

      I agree. What about when a diabetic person goes into a coma behind the wheel because of too much sugar? No one says anything about that. They y only blame alcohol. That is not fair.
      Wine lover from Gauteng

  5. MC Theron says:

    Ramaphosa is not doing and can’t do anything about the virus, it will go its course and there’s nothing he can do, it’s insane to think that 30 people in a taxi, because they always overload won’t spread the virus, but if you alone drink a glass if wine alone in you house you will spread the virus. How stupid can one be , all he does is destroying the economy and the lives of people.

    • Nonhlanhla Joy Dlamini says:

      I couldn’t agree more. It’s sad to see business owners suffer because of these bans. Not everything that goes wrong in this country should be blamed on alcohol.

  6. alcoholl worker says:

    government doesnt have proper strategies to curb the rate of infectin, infect the movement of cops and soldiers is just open no serching in the locations where they see that ppl might b drinking illigally bt just making their own ways of getting money. we can not all b working in the govnmt sectors. nw million ppl are killed because of the niglegance of security personel. our president and the comand council should reintate the consumption of alcohol and strenthen the security

  7. Nicolaas Stempels says:

    The drop in alcohol related trauma is due to the curfew, not to th alcohol sales ban.
    Counterproductive measures in the long run (illegal alcohol trade)
    Idiotic measure.

  8. Kulani says:

    It’s very disappointing I’m even out of words

  9. Katleho says:

    This government (ANC) does not care about ordinary working individuals and their families. How will you feed yourself and your family if the only source of work/salary is taken away? The same government individuals making this rules are paid high salaries monthly and never experience loosing their houses, cars & other assets. Just look at this leaders -they were all involved in corruption scandals. They are old – soon will be on pension. They keep on rotating from one high position to the other. It is time to take a stand S.A. Ramaphosa keep on telling us about the relieve fund (R350) – honesty, what will a father of 4 kids and a wife do with R350? I tried to apply for it & was told I don’t qualify. Why close the liquor industry that fed me and my family for years & fail to feed me and my family? I am so angry! S.A take a stand, we can also get away with anything like the taxi industry. This pandemic exposed the current ruling party…they don’t have positive future plans to unit and build a better S.A economy. A simple example – I was shocked to see Msebenzi Zwane addressing S.A

  10. Thuso says:

    I think our government doesn’t care about does who feed their families by the sale of alcohol, Ramaphosa jst think for one side

  11. Mangweng says:

    The truth is your closing alcohol but you need as to sanitary our hard but what about in side our body alcohol can sanitary inside, I know you don’t know that today I learned you something so you must open alcohol the people are deading please do what am telling you think about sanitary inside

  12. Carol Stewart says:

    This is immature, if. they only allowed alcohol to be sold 2 or three days a week the restaurants and liquor stores would boost the economy which is in dire straights.

  13. Carol says:

    Same applies to cigarettes, I am not a smoker, but being the friend of smokers find them so irritable.

  14. Banel says:

    People are drinking spirits now and our business are are falling we are eating stock money how will we re open them agine and people are losing their jobs y dnt you tell polce and solid to make make a plan and let us sell alcohol its our job and it gives us bread each day now we must suffer coze of people in the palermrnt they are befitting from this us we suffer

  15. Norman Brown says:

    The loss of sales for wine will leave a long lasting affect on the Western Cape economy and the countries economy. Job losses will create even more problems such as crime and service support industries. The ANC Government are simply a puppet representation of the people and should not be governing a country. Time for change is urgent before irreparable damage is caused to the infrastructure. SA is and should be a prosperous country with opportunities for all, if governed corectly

  16. Pet says:

    Ramaphosa people are very angry to you close the alcohol an cigarette why you do this no jobs no food how they gona savive those people coz they lost the jobs or are you going to feed them

  17. siyabonga gumede says:

    I for 1 love to get at least 2 beers before i sleep, helps me easy my mind and forget about the worries of this cruel world for at least few hours before i start a new day. the government must know that ban or no ban, people are still consuming alcohol. the black market wins.

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