Amidst rising COVID-19 cases, South Africa entered its third alcohol sales ban on December 28, 2020. The sales ban is set to lift sometime in February 2021, after review. Announcing the sales ban President Cyril Ramaphosa emphasized it was to help fight the pandemic by reducing alcohol-related hospital admissions which place tremendous pressure on the already overburdened healthcare system.
All three of South Africa’s alcohol sales bans had positive results by reducing trauma admissions in hospitals, accidents, crime and violence across the country. For example, since the newest alcohol sales ban, trauma cases linked to alcohol fell by 47% on weekends and by 58% on weekdays in Western Cape. In late December, 2020 South African hospitals were reportedly out of ICU beds and the alcohol sales ban worked in freeing up beds.
As reported previously, Big Alcohol giant AB InBev’s subsidiary SAB Miller went to court to challenge the current alcohol sales ban in South Africa. However, in response to this, civil society network Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance South Africa (SAAPA SA) has launched a petition to push SAB Miller to withdraw the court challenge. SAAPA SA argues that the lawsuit was a distraction and would result in diverting government resources away from dealing with the pandemic effectively.
Now, VinPro, a Big Wine lobby group in South Africa has gone to the Western Cape High Court to seek interim “relief” from the alcohol sales ban, which would allow the premier of the Western Cape to regulate the sale of liquor in the province.
It must be noted that South Africa has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 infections on the continent, with over 1.4 million reported cases and nearly 42,000 deaths.
Alleviating the pressure on healthcare systems is a life and death matter for the South African people during the ongoing pandemic.
Yet, Big Wine – along with Big Beer – is prioritizing private profits over South African lives. VinPro has cited their loss in sales and the “sustainability of the wine industry” as reasons to seek special relief from the ban. This is yet another push by the alcohol industry in South Africa to weaken public health policies and safeguard their profit interest at all costs.