Following Friday’s announcement of a cancelled investment of R2.5 billion by South African Breweries (SAB), the DA has joined calls for President Cyril Ramaphosa and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to lift the blanket ban on alcohol sales.
The DA has described the ban as “economically crippling”.
“It is abundantly clear that this ill-thought ban is having devastating economic consequences for South Africa,” said Dean Macpherson, DA’s shadow minister of trade, industry and competition.
The cancelled investments relate to upgrades at operating facilities, product innovation, operating systems, as well as the installation of new equipment at selected plants.
This now brings the brewer’s cancelled capital expenditure to a total of R5 billion since the alcohol ban was introduced earlier last year.
SAB’s vice-president of finance, Richard Rivett-Carnac, said this decision would impact profitability and number of jobs created by the companies that would have worked with SAB to execute the capital investment plans.
“Given the uncertain operating environment, the decision to reduce SAB’s capital expenditure and consequently its cash flow requirements, is a difficult decision to make at this time,” says Rivett-Carnac.
So far, it has been estimated that 165,000 people have lost their jobs due to the three alcohol bans cumulatively.
“In a country that has record unemployment, it is unthinkable that we are forcing people not to work because the government failed in every respect to use the initial lockdown in March 2020 to build extra hospital capacity,” said Macpherson.
He said South Africans were paying with their lives and their jobs because of the government’s failures.
The brewery is calling for the government to allow off-premises trading, with restricted trading hours and a curfew.
It said that these would be effective to support the healthcare system and mitigate the rapid spread of the virus while preserving the livelihoods and keeping economy open.
Rivett-Carnac said that an outright ban on the sale of alcohol was an extreme measure that should be reconsidered by the government.
Last week, SAB announced that it would be approaching the courts to challenge the constitutionality of the ban on the sale of alcohol.
It said the legal action was the last resort available in order to protect its employees, suppliers, customers, consumers, and all the livelihoods they support.
The DA said it was time to end the ban on alcohol.
“Get MPs back to work to finalise liquor legislation and to increase hospital capacity as we have been promised. Anything short of this by president Ramaphosa and the government will continue to cost people their lives and livelihoods.”