People before profit is what we strive for and the relevance of this right now is clearer than ever. But we must consider the people who are being affected by the extended shutdown periods of certain sectors.
The alcohol industry is one sector that is in trouble. While the lock down is needed to curb the spread of Covid-19 the re-closing of the alcohol industry cannot be justified beyond the initial festive period. The entire ecosystem that is dependent on this industry was the first to feel the devastation and has time and again been the proverbial 'whipping boy' of the governments response to the pandemic.
The impact of this long lasting prohibition starts at producer and manufacture level - including all providers of bottle, cans, labels, packaging and delivery and then hits the retailers, restaurants, and their ecosystems. It is the SMMEs that suffer the most once again. If sectors are forced to close then there should be direct financial and an integrated support network to catch those that fall.
The direct financial support does not need to be just cash. Development grants, the extension of the UIF TERS, a rental relief fund that ensures landlords can also get paid, tax relief and new, innovative and relevant to the situation solutions are needed. And they are needed now. There are other options to a blanket ban on alcohol. Limited trading hours, limiting purchases, purchasing of wine only with a meal are a few. Help is needed now and we call for the opening of alcohol sales and a plan to help rebuild what has been broken. And if this ban is to continue, a detailed and comprehensive plan and financial stimulus package must be put in place. When small business fails, South Africa fails. So we cannot fail our small businesses. Lets do business!
Howard Johnson CEO, South African Small and Medium Enterprises Association