Liquor store owners' income may have stopped during the alcohol sales ban, but their expenses have not, and the stress of the situation became so much for one, that he decided to end it all.
Last week the depression became too much for De Witt and he shot himself.
Davids himself was shot in his leg during store robbery in June last year during a robbery, but even that was less painful than the devastation that he has had to during the past month.
“My store lost a lot of money in August, when the annual inter-schools championship was cancelled, but we made up for it during December, until the current ban was instituted.”
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Four people work in Davids’ store and indirectly support 15 people: “I have been paying them, but we can only pay so much. What is going to happen when I cannot pay their salaries anymore? I have already given up a few months’ salary myself,” Davids says.
The new ban was completely unexpected for Davids, although he says he expected a change. He thought trading hours would be shortened, but never that a completely ban would come. Davids now makes ice, but that is all he can do.
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“I am doing myself in to keep going, but if I cannot open by 15 February, I will have to close down. And where will I find a job at my age? All my savings went into keeping the doors open. I am just thankful that my three grown children are not in the business.”
Davids’ story is the story of many others. According to the National Liquor Traders Council and Liquor Traders Association of South Africa, their trading coalition employs more than 282 000 workers, with 250 000 in taverns, 18 000 in bottle stores and 14 000 by independent liquor traders. Almost 500 bottle stores will not be able to pay their rent at the end of January.
Charles Kemp, who used to own two liquor stores, explains that stock is turned over every 15 to 21 days. “While you trade, money comes in and you can pay your accounts. Now the trading has stopped, but you must still pay your accounts, which can be up to R2 million.”
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The South African Liquor Brandowners’ Association (SALBA) said in a statement that it is time to lift the ban because the number of active Covid-19 cases in the country has dropped over the past two weeks.
According to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD)’s Daily Hospital Surveillance Report, the number of active COVID-19 cases across the country has dropped in some cases by more than 50%. All provinces reported a decrease in weekly incidence risk, ranging from a 22.9% decrease in the Free State to a 47.3% decrease in KwaZulu-Natal and up to 50% in the Western Cape.
The drop in infections is good news for the country and provides government with an opportunity to urgently reverse its decision to prohibit alcohol sales, Sibani Mngadi, chairperson of SALBA says.
“Available data does not back Government’s argument that the current prohibition of sale of alcohol is being maintained to preserve the maximum capacity in the health system to handle a surge in Covid-19 admissions. It is now time for government to roll back the prohibition to limit further losses of jobs and revenue for the sector.”
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He added that the alcohol excise tax contribution to government declined by more than 28% from R47 billion in 2019/20 to R34 billion in 2020/21 during the first two bans. This R13 billion loss in alcohol tax revenue could have easily compensated for the investment needed in procurement of vaccines and other measures needed to curb the impact of COVID-19 on our society,” he said.
According to Mngadi, the industry has always found ways of working with government to review the reasons for banning alcohol and find more effective alternative measures to stop alcohol misuse, while maintaining the livelihoods of the million people whose jobs are dependent on the industry.
The alcohol industry continues to seek a social compact with government, industry and civil society to continue the sector’s vital economic activity and save businesses and jobs, while ensuring its workers’ safety, promote responsible trading and the sensible consumption of alcohol, he said.
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