Alcohol ban: Liquor industry asks the question of proportionality

The South African Liquor Brand Owners Association (Salba) has questioned the merits of some of the research done by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and used to partly substantiate the ban on alcohol sales, under the lockdown.


On Sunday, 12 July 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that government had made an about-turn on the sale of alcohol, announcing that it would be prohibited "with immediate effect"


He also imposed a curfew from 21:00 to 04:00, but said only those who would be working during that time would be allowed out of their homes.


The SAMRC has linked the use of alcohol to the high volume of trauma cases which are already burdening the public health system.

Alcohol ban: 'It's about proportion'


"The issue is not whether or not alcohol doesn't contribute to the trauma cases. I think one needs to accept that probably the incidents of accidents caused by drinking and driving and interpersonal violence – those things come into play", said Salba spokesperson Sibani Mngadi.
"But the question is what is the proportion of alcohol contribution to the whole thing. I think that's where the Medical Research Council study becomes a little bit difficult"


Mngadi said South Africa is one of few countries which have banned and that in cases were the selling of liquor is allowed, infections have gone down. He further recommended that government consider reaching a decision which would not compromise the industry, which has been left struggling due to the ban.


Under level 3 of the lockdown, selling of alcohol was allowed – only from Monday till Thursday, between 09:00 and 17:00. The industry noted that stakeholders, including businesses were compliant with the regulations and that the problem only arose after medical experts expressed concern over alcohol-induced incidents in hospital.


The SAMRC is also advocating raising the legal drinking age to 19 or 21 from 18 years old. Other calls include for higher higher prices and taxes on alcohol as well as limiting the number of liquor outlets.


The Council's Dr Charles Parry said a comprehensive national strategy on alcohol was needed.


"We need a clear, multi-sectoral national plan. Our national liquor policy is not strong or comprehensive enough", Parry said.


"We also need competent empowered leadership to drive the plan. We need to ensure that a plan is properly funded. We also need to be aware of conflicts of interest when engaging with the industry."