The Ministerial Advisory Council (MAC) on Covid-19 has declined to confirm whether the current fourth ban of the sale of alcohol for both on-site and off-site consumption alcohol was based on scientific recommendation.
In his national address on 27 June 2021, President Ramaphosa said: “Our Ministerial Advisory Committee has advised that the limited restrictions previously imposed were not that effective and that a prohibition [of alcohol sales] will ease the pressure that is placed on hospital services by alcohol-related emergency incidents.”
Following the President’s address, the South African Brandowners Association (SALBA) wrote to MAC Chair Prof Koleka Mlisana requesting the scientific data that informed the MAC’s recommendation to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to ban alcohol sales.
In her response sent to SALBA, Prof Mlisana does not confirm the President’s assertion that the MAC recommended the total ban of alcohol sales for 14 days and the further extension of this ban announced by the President on July 11.
“The advice provided by the MAC on Covid-19 is non-binding and is considered, together with other relevant information, before final decisions are taken by the responsible authorities, including the National Coronavirus Command Council,” wrote Prof Mlisana.
SALBA Chairperson Sibani Mngadi said this was disturbing, especially given the economic losses suffered by the sector in recent weeks.
“Either our Government or the panel of esteem experts in MAC is misleading the public about the scientific basis of the decision to ban alcohol sales, which has far reaching economic consequences for the country,” said Mngadi.
In its correspondence to the MAC, SALBA provided detailed information* substantiating its argument that it was the limitation on people’s movement driven by the curfews that led to a decline in trauma admissions and unnatural deaths – not only the ban of alcohol sales – as claimed by the Medical Research Council (MRC) in its recently published study.
In her response, Prof Mlisana said the concerns about the MRC study should be referred to its authors or South African Medical Journal (SAMJ) which published it. SALBA has since submitted its rebuttal of the MRC study to the SAMJ.
“With another review of the current alcohol sales ban expected on 25 July, businesses, workers and the South African public deserve to know on what scientific basis the government makes the decision to ban alcohol sales,” said Mngadi.
A previous enquiry by SALBA established that the MAC had not recommended a total ban of alcohol sales that was implemented by government from 28 December 2020 to 31 January 2021 in relation to the second wave of Covid-19 infections.
Mngadi said alcohol outlets had also been a target of organised crime in the first 14 days of the latest ban. “With the President announcing further extension of the sales ban on 11 July, we saw a massive escalation in attacks, with at least 230 alcohol sites in KZN and Gauteng looted, vandalised and burnt. The looting started with retail outlets, expanded to warehouses and distribution centres and ultimately became a threat to primary production sites,” said Mngadi.