Gauteng Liquor Forum supports government interventions

We are scared for our future but ready to collectively flatten the curve

We are experiencing dramatic changes in our lifetime. Something that we never anticipated is happening before our eyes. You never know what the future holds for you. 

Let me start from where we left off in our engagement with the powers that be in the liquor industry. As I mentioned before in Spotong, the chopping and changing of MECs, directors and staff at the Department of Economic Development in Gauteng adversely affects service delivery.

The meeting that was supposed to take place last year has finally happened. Former MEC Kgosientso Ramokgopa had made a commitment to address the memorandum of demands tabled by liquor trader associations.

In closing and in relation to police raiding, the MEC committed to have a meeting with the MEC of Safety to ask for a moratorium on 15 000 liquor traders who are permit holders.

The meeting took place after several reminders to the Department of Economic Development and The Office of the Premier about this commitment. The latter assisted us by informing the incumbent MEC, Morakane Mosupye, that her predecessor had made a commitment to host a Liquor Traders Indaba where factors surrounding the industry would be discussed.

On 6 March 2020, the meeting between the Gauteng Liquor Traders Association, Office of the Premier and the Department of Economic Development took place at the Department of Economic Development’s Umnotho House.

Due to a communication breakdown and trust deficit between the Department of Economic Development and The Liquor Traders Associations, we requested the Office of the Premier to intervene and preside over these meetings. Margaret Tleane chaired the meeting and the MEC could sense the strained relations between the Liquor Board and Liquor Traders.

Ms Tleane expressed appreciation to the MEC for attaching value to this meeting as she attended with her Head of Department. Thereafter, we were requested to make a presentation of demands in the memorandum submitted to government.

The MEC ordered the chief director of the Gauteng Liquor Board, Raymond Martin, to present the response by the Department of Economic Development. This is a response that we have been demanding for months, only to be told in this meeting that they withheld the response out of fear that we might use it against them in court. The report says permit holders must apply for licenses!

The MEC, after hearing the presentation from Liquor Traders and the response from the Liquor Board, posed a question to the associations on whether they wanted to be regulated and the response was a resounding yes! She stated that it is not in the best interest of government to stand against small businesses, but, without regulation, the industry does not benefit from government programmes as they are employers whose employees cannot be accounted for and that there are programmes to support traders as they employ two or more people. She further said that shebeens must be supported to grow to a point of having a partnership with breweries in South Africa. The MEC urged the associations to stay out of court and work together with the department to find an amicable solution. She indicated that they engaged with the Yeoville Ratepayers Association and they seemed to understand that such matters can be resolved by working together. The Department has 15 000 permit holders. The associations should indicate how many are outside those 15 000.

In closing and in relation to police raiding, the MEC committed to have a meeting with the MEC of Safety to ask for a moratorium on 15 000 liquor traders who are permit holders.

The Global Pandemic

Covid-19 emerged during December 2019 and was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation soon after. On 18 March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a National State of Disaster and the regulations issued in terms of Section 27 (2) of the Disaster Management Act 2002 prevent the escalation of disaster.

The liquor trade is the most affected business in this time of crisis as limitations on the sale of alcohol compelled all premises selling liquor to be closed immediately. Nasasa issued a statement on measures to prevent Covid-19 transmission and advised groups to seek alternative group communication mechanisms and encouraged the prudent use of available mobile or digital platforms.

A media release from the Eastern Cape Liquor Forum on Covid-19 regulations stated that these regulations were going to destroy black-owned taverns in townships. The government has not yet consulted with township businesses and tavern owners, according to Winston Hector, president of the Eastern Cape Liquor Forum.

The Gauteng Liquor Forum supported government Covid-19 interventions but we are concerned for township businesses and we appeal to the government and financial sector to support liquor traders during this unprecedented time of crisis. We also appeal to our members and all liquor traders in South Africa to comply with all measures to curb the spread of the virus.

We don’t know what the future holds for us. The number of infections and the death toll is growing. There might be another total lockdown if the situation gets worse.

We urge everyone to apply their minds to a collective effort to flatten the curve.

By: Musa Ntshangase, GLF secretary