The decision by Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane, to lobby the National Coronavirus Command Council to reinstate the ban on alcohol sale in the province has been met with mixed reactions.
Liquor traders reject it. They are calling for consultations and want law enforcement agencies to enforce regulations.
On the other hand, the Eastern Cape Liquor Board supports the call.
Nine days ago queues formed early at liquor outlets. Tipplers keen to slake their thirst. But the lifting of the ban quickly resulted in alcohol-related incidents, straining the already under-pressure medical services in the province.
During the first week of sales, more than 3 000 alcohol-related incidents were recorded in the province, including murder, assault and drunk driving.
In the video below – Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane wants ban on alcohol sale reinstated
The premier’s Spokesperson Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha says drunk people do not adhere to the regulations put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“This decision is made to reduce infections and protect the lives of our people. The province is expecting a conversation with the national government on this matter to have a decision that will benefit all of us. The government welcomes the work that is done by traders of alcoholic beverages that comply with the regulations, and the government welcomes the work of the police to enforce these regulations at all times. We are appealing to the people of the province to stop abusing alcohol and to continue working together with us, to prevent the spread the virus.”
Liquor traders fear a fresh ban will cripple their businesses as they are still counting the losses of the last two months.
Lunga Magxaka is a liquor trader in Zwide Township and the leader of the Concerned Township Licenced Liquor Traders. He says the government needs to regulate the selling of alcohol to big trading outlets.
“People are not going to stop drinking. They will come up with ways that will affect our people. So, I’m really disappointed with that kind of a statement without advising our people at least to stay at their homes and drink responsibly.”
Eastern Cape Liquor Forum President, Winston Hector calls on law enforcement agencies to enforce regulations to ensure compliance.
“We do not agree with such call, but rather call for stricter enforcement from the South African Police Services and in particular the Eastern Cape Liquor Board.”
The provincial government has the backing of the Eastern Cape Liquor Board.
Spokesperson of the Provincial Board, Mgwebi Msiya, says, “We acknowledge the premier’s decision to lobby the National Command Council for the banning of alcohol again and we support any efforts that seek to protect our people against the deadly virus.”
Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize is expected to visit the Eastern Cape later this week. The province has recorded close to 6 000 coronavirus infections.
Reporting by Mcebisi Ngqina