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Here’s how South Africans are dodging virus alcohol ban

Prohibition stokes anxiety for boozers, bottlers.
Image: Moneyweb

A four-week ban on alcohol sales is forcing thirsty South Africans to get creative, from experimenting with home brews to sneaking over the border in search of a drink.

That’s worrying bottlers including wine and spirits manufacturer Distell Group, the nation’s biggest wine exporter.

The prohibition, one of the strictest in the world, was introduced March 27 under a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus. While many consumers stocked up — some showing off their bounty by circulating drinking challenges on social media — the extension of the shutdown earlier this month has led some tipplers to try home brewing as their supplies deplete. Others have taken more extreme measures of sneaking across closed borders to neighbouring countries for beer.

It’s also led to more direct criminal activity, with Police Minister Bheki Cele condemning the burglary and looting of more than a dozen liquor stores. And law enforcers have also intercepted trucks carrying alcohol, including vehicles owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev found leaving depots with goods worth millions of rand. The company said it had permission to transport a portion of its inventory.

What’s causing Distell anxiety is that in addition to the moratorium on sales, shipments overseas have been banned, crimping exports to key markets like Europe, the US and China. South Africa’s ranking as the world’s ninth-biggest wine exporter is in jeopardy, chief executive officer Richard Rushton said.

“We have nearly a half billion rand in value on open orders for export across all our categories, waiting for foreign customers in markets with no liquor ban,” Rushton said in an emailed response to questions.

Silver lining

Distell, which competes with Pernod Ricard and Diageo, exports about R3 billion worth of wine, spirits and cider products a year. It’s losing out on R8.2 million each day the ban remains in place. The nation has foregone as much as R200 million a week in wine-export earnings during the lockdown, according to industry estimates.

“When products aren’t on the shelves, consumers will try replacements and in some cases it will be a more permanent lost sale,” said Syd Vianello, an independent retail analyst in Johannesburg. “After the export ban is lifted, it may also be difficult to win back shelf space.”

Among the unforeseen consequences of the ban are that the government is getting less tax revenue at a time when it needs funding to revive an economy hobbled by the lockdown. Almost 60% of the cash Distell makes is paid in a combination of excise and corporate tax to local governments.

Grape and apple farmers are also struggling — Distell buys more than a third of South Africa’s grapes for wine, brandy and ready-to-drink beverages and half the country’s apple juice concentrate, used for cider. And there’s been an increase in the trade in illicit alcohol — an illegal industry that is likely to be maintained long after the lockdown is over, according to Distell.

It’s not all been bad. One of the benefits of the alcohol ban has been that the reduction in drinking probably led to a quarter, or 9 000, fewer trauma cases in hospital wards every week, according to Charles Parry, a researcher at the South Africa Medical Research Council.

While South Africa will begin easing the lockdown at the end of April, many restrictions will remain in place, including the prohibition on the domestic sale of alcohol. It’s still not clear whether the export of liquor will be allowed.

Distell is prepared for any eventuality.

“We have prepared plans and protocols in place to transition to a safe and responsible production environment to satisfy demand, alongside any change in domestic regulations around the sale of our brands,” Rushton said.

© 2020 Bloomberg


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The reduced number of trauma cases is not because of alcohol. Fake News. Did they not recently talk about something like 89 000 cases of GBV during the lockdown? I think this came directly from the “mad hatter”.

During prohibition in the US violent crime increased by 78%. Someone is trying to justify the stupidity. What makes SA different or “Special”?????

Like smoking? In France an urgent investigation is being carried out at present as it looks as though nicotine might block the receptors of the virus. Of close to 400 positive cases checked it was found only 5% were smokers compared with 35% average smokers nationally.

Strange how it is again different to what our “Einsteins” are saying. They say its the other way around.


26 APRIL 2020 @ 7:22 PM
Dealing with a nation where the vast majority of adults are with inadequate or unreliable responsibility is understandably problematic. There has been little interest in identifying the problematic individuals and drilling into them the do’s and don’ts of ordinary life. Nor has any problematic cultural attitudes and practices been formally identified and appropriately addressed.
When such poor quality examples of leadership behavior are given for decades with no actual improvement in sight there is basically no hope of improvement of those that are being led. The issue is one of abandoned responsibility by the legitimate leadership and the failure to promote improvements to the status of human rights by identifying and seeking to eliminate all impacting cultural attitudes and behavior. A good example is the perpetual preservation of tribalism in the constitution and the related exemptions for these practices and their victims.
Accordingly it is no surprise that we are all being treated with such outrageous contempt.

Do you think alcohol contributes to GBV? You really haven’t thought this one through.

Nicotine is not the same as smoking. Smoking will kill half of its long term users directly ASIDE from making it easier to get the virus and harder to get better.

Don’t twist data to try and justify your addictions.

Jalap, this was written for people like yourself. Associate with it and embrace it. It is yours.

“The Little Man does not know that he is little, and he is afraid of knowing it. He covers up his smallness and narrowness with illusions of strength and greatness, of others’ strength and greatness. He is proud of his great generals but not proud of himself. He admires thought which he did not have and not the thought he did have. He believes in things all the more thoroughly the less he comprehends them, and does not believe in the correctness of those ideas which he comprehends most easily.” – Wilhelm Reich

The people who can’t make a point of their own?

Or have to pretend they care about alcohol and smoking because of GBV and the virus?

Addicts lie to themselves.

Little man syndrome

Well, to answer that question you’d need to know how many cases of GBV occurred during the same time period last year. With regards to general traumatic injuries we have seen an unprecedented drop. Hundreds of people walking around fine and well who would have otherwise had a broken bone, or a stabbed chest or worse. Usually Easter Monday in the ER looks like a warzone, blood on the floor, patients everywhere, a few corpses in the back waiting for the mortuary guy, and they are almost all drunk. Easter under lockdown there was 1 person waiting on a stretcher on Easter Monday. And all the trauma units are reporting similar findings.

I’m not a proponent of long term prohibition because of the organised crime problem it causes, but you can’t deny that alcohol is a significant contributor to traumatic injury in SA, both in fuelling violence and also in causing road accidents. Having a big drop in trauma admissions means more beds can be used for sick Covid cases

The Govt got the alcohol and cigarettes thing wrong allowing the non tax paying illicit sector to flourish like illegal cigarettes from Zim through smuggling

The ANC have benefited from the illicit trades of cigarettes and alcohol for decades !!!!!!

They feel no pain !!!

It’s probably their party sponsors

Totally correct. The law of unintended consequences. The government supported the growth of the illegal trade, that pays no taxes, by shutting down the legal trade that does. The government removed the smugglers’ competition and damaged the business model of law-abiding citizens. The government planted the seed of resentment among the public. People won’t sit around idly and let the government trample on their rights, and restrict their movement with ad-hoc and arbitrary measures, for very long. The people are not stupid.

What is the purpose of lockdown, when all the inmates in USA prisons are infected by the virus anyway? These officials with their overgrown sense of importance, with their myopic view of life and the economy, should be held accountable for the harm they have caused to ordinary citizens, who already have they virus anyway, but have lost their livelihoods forever. These anti-social and sadistic politicians with their narcissistic personality disorders and their personal agendas, who supported and enforced these arbitrary measures beyond the initial stage, should be held accountable at the polls. Bheki Cele is foremost among them, and Fikile Mbalula is a close second.

And that little guy from KZN.

Yes because staying away from contact with sick people outside in lock down and being locked in confines with sick people in prison is the same thing right. Child like logic. “I r in prison here cos I can’t buy my klippies hey”. Public schooling in SA…

But what exactly is the LOGIC behind their thinking here. Perhaps they feel that people are easier to control if they don’t drink. How utterly naive!
Do they REALLY believe that if they ban the sale of alcohol they will induce an entire nation of drinkers to happily give it up?! It normally takes professionals in rehab facilities and Alcoholics Anonymous to achieve that.
They may succeed in convincing millions of adults to stay at home, and go out in masks one-by-one to buy essentials only, because there is logic in that, but when it comes to a ban on alcohol, they may as well reintroduce the Immorality Act.
This is ambition without a modicum of common sense.
I shake my head in wonderous confusion!

Peter, here is the answer to your question why politicians, and in this case, also officials, act the way they do.

“The small man thinks that small acts of goodness are of no benefit, and does not do them; and that small deeds of evil do no harm, and does not refrain from them. Hence, his wickedness becomes so great that it cannot be concealed, and his guilt so great that it cannot be pardoned.” – Confucius

Why are you yammering on about alcoholics anonymous? This is just a sales ban to prevent people from going to shops and boozing around. Not an attempt to ‘cure alcoholism’. Calm down buddy. I know it is hard without the booze but you will make it.

Who will become South Africa’s version of Al Capone…?


The logic is clear enough :

the effect of alcohol in many cases is a subclinical immunosuppression that becomes clinically relevant after a secondary insult such as bacterial or viral infection ;

and of course, people under the influence tend to be less inhibited and have less self-control, which militates against following a disciplined lockdown regime.

Whether the restrictions actually achieve their intended purpose in South African conditions is another issue entirely.

Okay, so then why are you so upset about it?

Dlamini-Zuma is 71y old : with any luck she follows the regulation about persons older than 60 not working.

Each time she is on TV I say a quick prayer thanking that she is not our president. Big bullet dodged that time!

She has the charisma of a two-minute noodle.

What regulation is there that people over 60 mustn’t work? Of course they are allowed if they are deemed to be essential as executive is. Stop getting worked up over fake news.

Open up the economy again! If there are deaths then so be it.

I’m sure NDZ is enjoying a bottle or two each evening toasting and gloating herself

I (or the WHO) has a dilemma……
….if Zika Virus is named after the Zika River in Uganda, and Ebola Virus named after the Ebola River in the region where it was first identified, AND MERS Virus is also named from the region where it first emerged,then WHY is this virus called Covid-19 and the 2003 virus in China is called SARS-Covid?
Why are non-Chinese viruses named after the region where first discovered?
This current virus should be called Wuhan Virus? Maybe China does have too much influence over the World Health Organisation after all?

Well, worrying about the name is really important hey. What a dilemma!

If its possible, think BEYOND the name to ensure it does not happen again!?? Hope its not too difficult?

So pleased with the ban on alcohol I do hope the sale of alcohol is severely restricted when lock down has ended. Anyone with an alcohol level above a certain level should not be treated medically at any hospital. Medical staff need to stop wasting their time stitching up drunk people. Alcohol is costing millions and millions. Alcohol sales must pay for the damage it causes society. Most money web readers are responsible however most users are not.

Why does nobody sue the government for these completely illogical decisions?
The loss in revenue surely justifies that???

Shame, the ‘loss in revenue’ is really the reason you are upset? How long ago did you run out?

You are broadcasting the fact that you have the slave mentality.

“Mistaking insolence for freedom has always been the hallmark of the slave.” — Wilhelm Reich

So laughing at alcies drying out makes me the slave? At least I am not a slave to liquor.


To me you come across as a dry drunk.

I don’t think the Moneyweb comments section is where you need to be spending your time.

Leaving the justification for banning locals sale of alcohol out for the moment; banning exports is downright irrational & irresponsible to the point of wanton destruction of an excellent export industry. Shot in foot to an unprecedented extent. Criminal!

The idea is to stop unnecessary exposure among workers. The wine doesn’t jump into the bottle and ship itself. Obviously.

Net result is soon nobody will be able to pay these workers anymore, and government won’t be able to help because they cut off there main tax streams. Let’s see how it plays out in the end.

People seem to prefer dying from hunger rather than exposure to the virus. Maybe over time they will rethink that. Let’s see.

After we have totally bankrupted the country and people and supply chains have been destroyed to the point that shelves are empty, then we will have no choice but to end the lockdown and then the virus will be waiting exactly as it is today. It isn’t going anywhere.

I love how you are so worried about these workers in particular. It is almost like you really have a vested interest in it. How long ago did you run out? Be honest now? Do you worry this much about builders?

Jalap, the regulations have absolutely no direct effect on me, but i know several business owners in the process of shutting down and laying off their workers and it makes me very sad to see how devastating these decisions are. From my own personal view i think i may be one of those least affected of all.


Looking at your posts I am concerned that you may be suffering from Extended Isolation Syndrome. It is a well documented syndrome with negative consequences on the patient’s cognitive abilities, especially being able to differentiate nuances such as sarcasm, irony, humor and hyperbole among non-sufferers. I urge you to seek help. Please

My alcohol ran out official yesterday, I obeyed lockdown rules sitting at home and drinking my beer in peace looking at the owner of the hat making noise about my favourite beverage.
One thing that I’m positive about I WILL NEVER FORGIVE THE ANC for depriving me of the one think that keep me sane during this difficult economic times, see you at the poles next year

Polls. Wow, you know you have a problem when this is the thing that has changed your vote. Slave to the bottle.

Note the alcies pretending they are worried about all the Gender based violence that will occur if they can’t buy alcohol.

The lies addicts tell themselves.

Jalap the fun sponge.

Yeah, pretending to care about GBV like these clowns is soooo fun!

Jalap, the people who comment here understand economics and value personal freedom. Please go to a forum where petty and silly remarks showing no gravitas are appreciated. I suggest Sowetanlive or Netnuus, but spare us your inane remarks. The grown-ups are talking here.

Them beverages are over-rated…

I am not a drinker, so I am not affected by the alcohol ban, well at least as a consumer, but I am employed within the alcohol industry, so I am gravely affected as an employee.
Medical practitioners worldwide have welcomed the banning of alcohol and even called for its extension beyond the Covid-19 lockdown, seeing that it has given them “less work to-do” while keeping their salaries and being called heroes for DOING THEIR JOBS, what a holy grail!
To me, banning alcohol amongst other things because it may contribute to the spread of the virus is like banning bicycles alongside cars because riding bicycles “may contribute to damaging the ozone layer”.
It’s really ridiculous to ban something that does not even have a direct link to the problem.
The alcohol industry is losing billions in the name of “better societal behaviour”.
Well how about this, I’m losing my damn fvcking mind and manners and it’s not because I can’t have a drink, it’s because I can’t sell one!
The government’s strategy is “Hey, let’s lose money banning alcohol, but wait, even better, let’s lose even more money deploying a portion of our army and the entire police force to ensure that
no one has access to the same alcohol that we banned”. Could have rather made money and kept a portion of the economy active by allowing alcohol exports and take-away sales, while having the same army and police force ensuring that people “drink at home” which is what those in position of alcohol inventories are doing in any case!

Cele is just practicing civil rights suppression for the day he becomes president. He is our Idi Amin.

Thousands of pedestrians lose there life each year, Think we must ban walking.
Thousands of motorists lose there lifes each year, ban driving.
Thousands get sexual deseases, ban sex.

And the list goes on………

End of comments.





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