Alcohol purchasing surges amid pandemic

Consumers worry government might make a U-turn on its decision to lift the sales ban.
Keen, but patient … shoppers queue to buy alcohol at a Makro store in Roodepoort on Monday. Image: Michel Bega, Citizen.

It was a busy day in South Africa on Monday. Alcohol consumers went as far as calling it “the new year”.

Shop assistants once again wore their uniforms with pride after having been forced to keep them on a hanger for the past two months. And customers were delighted.

“I am so happy that I will finally have a bottle of wine with my supper this evening,” said Lilly Madima, a consumer outside Pick n Pay (PnP) Liquor in Midrand, Gauteng.

Read: SA shoppers stock up on booze as sales resume

Madima’s comments echo the sentiments of many South Africans who were prohibited from purchasing alcoholic beverages, as the country battled to contain the spread of Covid-19 and prepare its health system ahead of the anticipated spike in cases.


As the country eases into alert Level 3 it means consumers may now stock up on alcohol between 09:00 and 16:00 from Mondays to Thursdays.

Madima, who said she’s “relieved” about the move, purchased Savanah from PnP and wine from Woolworths, saying she had been more than eager to do so.

Her eagerness was however nothing compared with that of Jason Smith, who described himself as being financially exhausted from buying alcohol on the black market.

Read: Lockdown: The daily hustle of the booming black market

In a state of excitement, he said: “I haven’t had red wine since the ban on alcohol [sales]. All the alcohol I purchased on the black market was so expensive and there was nothing I could do about it … I would buy drinks for as much as R700.”

Representing many South Africans who just “honestly” missed passing by the liquor store and purchasing alcohol without “breaking the law”’ is Senzo Kupeka.

“I was just at the shopping centre for some grocery shopping and I thought I should buy a carry pack as [the store] is not as packed as anticipated,” he said.

Read: Here’s how South Africans are dodging virus alcohol ban

Many consumers waited outside liquor stores ahead of opening time, and this was anticipated by retailers.

‘Responsible’ shopping

PnP spokesperson Janine Caradonna said many customers visited its liquor stores on Monday and “shopped responsibly”.

“To ensure we can serve as many customers as possible each day, we introduced limits across all liquor categories, and this worked very well. Customers can be reassured that we are working closely with our suppliers and that all shelves and our online store will be restocked daily to ensure customers’ favourite brands are available for them to buy.”

Since the stores were packed today, it seems some consumers may have forgotten that there is the online shopping option.

Alcohol online

“Customers also turned to our online shop and many placed a pre-order over the weekend for later delivery,” said Caradonna. “We started dispatching these pre-orders this morning [Monday] and customers will continue to get their orders according to the day and slot they selected, and in accordance with the Level 3 regulations.”

Caradonna said Pick n Pay’s same-day delivery service is in partnership with Bottles – an on-demand alcohol delivery app. “All orders placed on the Bottles app during the first week will be delivered the next day.”

Read: Lockdown: PnP launches same-day grocery delivery

Themba Skenjane said buying alcohol online to quench his thirst turned out to be more of an inconvenience than anything else.

“I tried purchasing alcohol online and my preferred brands such as Belgravia Gin were out of stock and my other preferences meant that I would have to wait two to three days for them to be delivered,” Skenjane said.

In-store safety

For others who may feel online shopping is too slow, Pick n Pay pointed out that “all liquor stores are following strict safety and prevention measures”.

“We limited the number of customers in stores, and queues were closely managed [on Monday]. Customers were asked to queue and shop with a trolley to maintain [social distancing] physically.”

Caradonna said customers were very understanding of the measures in place and patiently waited for their turn.

“Hand sanitiser was available for staff and customers, and masks were always worn. All our liquor stores have had perspex screens installed and stores will be cleaned even more rigorously, including sanitising all till points after each transaction.”

Massmart, which sells liquor through its Makro and Game chains, said it had worked closely with the major alcohol suppliers for the past month, in anticipation of the sales ban being lifted.

Enough to meet the demand, says Massmart

“We are confident that we will have sufficient stock to meet demand in a fair and responsible manner,” said Refilwe Boikanyo, communications manager at Massmart Group. “Our trading brands have also implemented customer purchasing limits. These limits are generally store-specific and are dependent upon the stock holding in the store.”

She said Massmart has been practising safety measures as demonstrated in this video.

‘’We have coupled these measures with actions that ensure orderly, safe and efficient customer transaction processing. This includes acquiring additional staff and security to improve customers’ check-in and check-out procedures and increasing resources to improve transaction processing.”

Tops at Spar had not responded to Moneyweb’s request for comment by the time of publishing.



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The length of the queues at bottle stores is an indication of how pathetic South Africans are. Lekker suip Suid Afrika.

Online? What a joke Pick n Pay. You’ve blocked online orders of alcohol for your full delivery service and it’s only available on Bottles. In KZN that means that literally 4 areas (all Durban North, Umhlanga or Musgrave) get deliveries. Who on earth is that a solution for 99% of us?

As the virus starts climbing for real in SA the authorities start opening up.

SA got this very wrong.

Hi I was wondering what the alternative is, seeing there are many in SA with no food or prospects of work.

They started the hard lock-down too early. They should be providing food stamps for defined basic foods (to everyone).

Ministar Ebrahim Patel …. said his job is done … its no longer his responsibility…. THE PEOPLE ARE NOW RESPONSIBLE.

The ANC got it wrong.

The long lines and panic buying is an indication of the level of trust in this “Regime”

The leader tells the citizens not to panic buy as it is just a 21 day lockdown and there is enough to go around. Not even talking about cigarettes.

All a bunch of lairs this is what you can take form the lines at bottle stores.

What is needed is a movement to get all these people to just vote ANTI ANC. Anything but ANC. Many of these people that had their rights violated has never voted. 11 million smokers would make the ANC go up in smoke.

There is no text book to refer to. So cut the government some slack.

1. Suggest a party that will come close to ANC in the next elections. EFF is the only viable alternative. DA are whingers without a plan.

2. Long queues has nothing to do with the regime; except that the government imposed a ban on alcohol sales.

3. Talk about the positives. Crime down. Alcohol related accidents down. Bonding with family up. Death down ; when compared to our European counterparts.

EFF a Viable Alternative ????
I,d rather get the virus : As they very clearly want the day thats gets even close I,m gone :

Hm…Muks ….you are funny

Pretty sure he wasn’t including alcohol as an essential item that a person without an addiction would feel the need to stockpile. If you struggle to go without so much, maybe you have a problem?

Now it’s “shop responsibly” 1st drink responsibly then shop responsibly.

Alcohol IS the true pandemic (not the virus)

Long before COVID-19 we had STUPID-101 and judging by some of comments it is alive, well and spreading at pandemic proportions.
“They should be providing food stamps for defined basic foods (to everyone).” – really paid for from where? – @ Africa Pragmatist

“The long lines and panic buying is an indication of the level of trust in this “Regime”” – So adults are no longer accountable for their own spending habits, it is always easier to blame somebody or something else for our stupidity is it? – @ Mmmm
“So cut the government some slack. 1. Suggest a party that will come close to ANC in the next elections. EFF is the only viable alternative. DA are whingers without a plan”. – Because I may vote for a party it doesn’t mean that I get accept every decision that they take, more importantly governments are accountable to the people that they govern regardless of whether they were appointed by them. So even if you voted for the party in power and I didn’t it doesn’t mean that they more accountable to you than me or that my opinion less than yours – @ Muks

Lastly, @MichaelfromKlerksdorp I must disagree with you “Alcohol IS the true pandemic (not the virus)” – Nope Alcohol while it may be a problem for some I still believe that STUPIDITY is the true pandemic and not “THE VIRUS”

SA seems to be going for the trifecta: violence and road accidents both caused by booze, and Covid-19.

South Africa is a hopelessly broken society. The government is a reflection of those it governs.

End of comments.



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