Thanks, but no thanks, Mr President!

SALTA Quarterly Column

It was on Monday 1 February 2021 that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lifting of the third ban on the sale of liquor, which had been instituted on 28 December 2020 and had been initially set to expire on 15 January 2021, but was extended.

The latest lifting of the ban — which we welcome — is the start of the long road to recovery for the liquor industry sector, but has come too late for many small businesses that have not been able to survive the financial and emotional storms that were brought onto the liquor trader industry by the several bans since the start of the pandemic.

Harassment, callous treatment and theft of trading stock from surviving liquor traders by the police have become the order of the day. Siyalimala! Siyafa!

Harassment, callous treatment and theft of trading stock from surviving liquor traders by the police have become the order of the day.

Two recent cases come to mind here. In one instance, a licensed SALTA member was woken up from his backroom in Meadowlands in the early evening of Sunday 24 January 2021 by police from the Meadowlands Police Station. They claimed that they had been told he was selling "prohibited items (liquor)" irrespective of the police having found no activity or anyone else at the premises. Khawufan’ucinge! He was then arrested and had his stock impounded from his storage place.

He was subsequently found not guilty. This was after he had been released on bail after having spent a night at the police station. Some two weeks later though, he is still awaiting the return of his bail money and the liquor that was confiscated by the police. He is being sent from pillar to post two weeks after with various excuses. Sifelani maar?!

In yet another case that was publicised widely in the media recently, a restaurant manager from Pretoria East was allegedly wrongfully arrested and alcohol worth approximately R112 000 was confiscated from his premises.

He was put in a holding cell with people who were not wearing masks for eight hours. Furthermore, the police that arrested him had “refused to adhere to the prescribed sanitising and screening protocol as prescribed through regulations”. Unbelievable!

The alcohol industry has already lost an estimated R25-billion and more than 250 000 jobs put at risk in an industry that has been known to create jobs and sustain livelihoods, particularly in township households across the country. Liquor traders have been reduced to being mere spectators in the economy that they have contributed significantly to over many decades.

This has been in spite of cries and persistent requests from the industry, throughout the pandemic, for inclusion in the fight against, and mitigation of, the coronavirus pandemic, in a manner that would contribute towards saving lives and with a reduced economic impact on our industry.

We are yet to be granted an audience by the president on our persistent request to meet with him or his authorised government officials so we can hopefully work together and map a way forward from here.

We are also yet to receive the Covid relief grants that were promised to small businesses!

Please, Mr President, these remain yet still honourable things to do. Siyacela!

By: Abe Radebe, PEC member, SALTA