As we all wait, with bated breath, for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s upcoming address regarding the lockdown and the way forward. South African Breweries (SAB) will no longer stand back in silence, following the third ban on alcohol sales.
The company states, “The South African Breweries has formed a part of the fabric of South Africa for the last 125 years, and we have stood behind the nation through its triumphs and challenges. SAB shares the Government’s concerns regarding the second wave resurgence, and we remain determined to continue to collaborate and engage on meaningful, lawful measures that safeguard both the lives and livelihoods of our people, communities and countries.”
During the 2020-year, SAB claims it worked hard to be part of the solution. “In the absence of a vaccine, we have used our voice, our value chain, our distribution network and our marketing capabilities to help communicate the need for adherence to strict COVID-19 protocol and responsible consumption.”
But following the President’s recent announcement on the alcohol ban, the brewery is now bracing itself for legal action against the Government.
In a statement, SAB explains it supports all lawful measures to curb the spread of the pandemic, including an earlier curfew, reduced indoor and outdoor capacity at gatherings, measured alcohol restrictions by channel, and heightened law enforcement. Still, it strongly disagrees with the introduction of yet another outright ban on the sale of alcohol.
Taking a stand, the company stresses, “SAB believes that any ban, including the current one, goes far beyond what is reasonable and necessary to contain the spread of the virus and unlawfully restricts various rights that are enshrined and protected by our constitution. These include the right to freedom of trade, the right to human dignity, privacy. And the right to bodily and psychological integrity.”
Challenging the ban’s constitutionality, which removes the South African public’s right as adults to responsibly consume a beer safely in the privacy of their own homes, is an integral part of SAB’s action.
The damage to the economy and the impact on the alcohol value chain are also factors which need to be taken into consideration.
The impact of the last two bans was dire, cutting deeply into the alcohol industry’s livelihood. SAB expounds, “Over 165 000 people have already lost their jobs, with a further 100 000 people moving into poverty as a result of the alcohol bans. We have seen small and large businesses severely impacted, billions of Rands lost in taxes, the entrenchment of illicit trading and the looting of alcohol stores. Restricting the legal trade of alcohol fuels the growth of the illicit market, a fact that is widely acknowledged internationally. The illicit market is outside the regulatory reach of the Government, leading to devastating consequences from a health and economic perspective.”
Therefore, after immense consideration, SAB says it has decided to approach the courts to challenge the constitutionality of the decision taken, and the process followed by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to re-ban the sale of alcohol. “This legal action is the last resort available to SAB in order to protect our employees, suppliers, customers, consumers and all the livelihoods we support.”
As the company prepares to start legal proceedings, it is calling on the Government to work closely with the alcohol industry, to enable an earliest possible lifting on the ban on alcohol sales, while looking at ways to collaborate and work together in finding sustainable solutions in fighting COVID-19.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you feel the ban alcohol products should be lifted? Or do you think the Government is justified in their decision?
Share your views with us in the comment section below.
Authors: Quinton Boucher and Calvin Swemmer
Edited: Calvin Swemmer