South African Breweries (SAB) has bemoaned the ban on alcohol sales as the country returned to level three restrictions, adding that the alcohol sector could not be the scapegoat for the rising number of Covid-19 infections.
“We cannot agree that our sector is continuously criminalised and called out as the most significant cause of the recent increase in cases in South Africa,” the company said on Tuesday evening.
“Our industry, our colleagues and our families cannot be discriminated against. We judge this as not only unfair, but that it disregards the more than 125 years of effort and dedication we have delivered together,” SAB continued.
On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the sale, distribution and transportation of alcohol would be banned. He said this was to reduce pressure on hospitals that are battling with an intake of Covid-19 patients.
Ramaphosa condemned failure to adhere to health protocols and the attendance of social gatherings, which increased the risk of infection, saying people wore masks only to gain entry to venues, then neglected keeping them on and sanitising.
He said the consumption of alcohol had contributed to this risky behaviour and increased the number of trauma cases in hospitals under severe pressure and at near-full capacity in a number of provinces.
SAB said while it supported government’s fight against coronavirus, blame for surging cases could not be pinned on it. It said it had done all it could to satisfy and support government’s fight against the virus, even supplying alcohol-based sanitisers.
On those found to be reckless because of alcohol, SAB said: “A firm belief of ours that needs to be reiterated to those consumers who choose to behave irresponsibly with our products is that our products are not for you”.
SAB also complained that it was not sufficiently consulted by government before the president’s announcement.
It stressed that the move would again affect more than one million industry workers. This included farmers, retail, manufacturing, logistics and many small businesses that deal in alcohol trading.
“In light of the announcement, we at SAB will consider all options and pursue every possible alternative to protect the lives and livelihoods that depend on us in order to continue operating responsibly and to generate the economic upliftment that is so desperately required for our country now,” the company said.