Rural taverns hit hard by alcohol ban

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The ban on liquor sales is having a devastating impact on the tavern sector in rural areas. Many rural women, who depended solely on alcohol sales, say this has resulted in hunger and desperation.

The closure of the largest independent beer warehouse in Mthatha, in the Eastern Cape, has brought economic misery to impoverished communities and warehouse employees.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe socio-economic impact, with many people unable to put food on the table.

Tavern owners in Mthatha’s rural areas have to drive for many kilometers on gravel roads to get their stock from the liquor distributor.

For them, it’s not about making a profit, but a means to provide for their families. The latest ban on the sale of alcohol came as a shock to many of them.

As SABC’s Nkululeko Nyembezi reports, its closure is also bound to cause job losses: 

Bongeka Mdubhuni says life is hard. “The closure of our tarvens came as a shock. It’s painful, because we do not know how are we going to survive without our business. The government has closed our only income and we are left with nothing. It’s a pain to my family.”

Lungisa Ndamase has been in the liquor business for many years. He says the government has forgotten about them and the contribution they make to the country’s economy.

“I am feeding my family with this alcohol business. My children and my mother are solely dependent on this business. This is my only bread for survival. I am left hopeless and powerless.”

Nomveliso Mzamo started her business at the age of 20. The situation in her family is worsening due to the alcohol ban.

“My main challenge under this lockdown is that I am schooling my children and there are four of us here. We are currently dependent on child grant of R850 and all of us are dependent on this money. It is bad and it’s really stressful.”

The biggest liquor distributor in the Eastern Cape, with 28 branches, is letting go of thousands of employees.

Noncedo Mpitsha is one of them.

“It’s so bad. It’s very bad. We do not know where to go. We do not have jobs now. We feel like they are chasing us like that and we have got parents. We have flats that we are renting. No groceries. Our kids! So, it’s so bad. We do not know what to do, and we want answers from our government.”

The largest warehouse alcohol distributor based in Mthatha, the Sussans Group, has called for immediate government intervention to rescue desperate employees.

The Group’s Spokesperson, Moncherie Tchaka Flanagan, elaborates, “My concern is the staff. Is there any assistance for the staff that are now going to be unemployed for the next three months. We have not heard anything from the government about that. Is there a package? Is there a plan? Is there something that they are going to get because UIF can take months. Just more information will be great”.

Many households are struggling to survive due to the ban on alcohol sales, and the economic impact of the ban is set to impact this industry very hard.