You doubtless don’t need me to tell you that the alcohol ban carries on in South Africa. Everyone has an opinion about it (just check out #alcoholban on Twitter). Some only see alcohol’s ills when it is drunk irresponsibly. Others can open their minds – and eyes – to get a feel for the bigger picture and the immense hardship that the ban is causing for those that work in the industry,
The entire alcohol industry fully understands the problems associated with potential abuse of its products and there is of course evidence linking alcohol use and increased trauma cases in hospital. But a blanket ban on the sale of alcohol is utterly destructive. Around one million people in South Africa rely on the alcohol industry in some form for their income, whether directly – employed by a brewery, winery or distillery or running a bar or tavern – or indirectly as delivery drivers, farmers or suppliers of everything from bottles and cans to labels, boxes, corks and crown caps.
Small breweries that survived the bans in 2020 are now feeling desperate. They can’t pay their staff. They can’t pay their bills, They can’t pay the loans that they took out in lieu of government assistance. And just to reiterate that: there is no government assistance and hasn’t been since UIF ran out many months ago.
The government has made a hitherto perfectly legitimate industry illegal and left everyone who works in it without any form of income. There is never a date set for when these legitimate businesses might once again be able to trade. And even if there was, the threat of another ban constantly looms overhead. But the government has left brewers – and distillers, winemakers, tavern owners, cider producers, hop farmers, bottle store owners and so many more – out to dry.
Wendy Pienaar, chair of the Craft Brewers Association of South Africa (CBASA) paints a pretty desperate picture of the industry right now. “Brewers are left with no more savings after trying to keep their staff employed after the bans in 2020,” says Wendy. “They have also been left with large amounts of debt as all the money they had was used for wages. Many are now in danger of losing everything as debt collectors are collecting on those loans. We have so many calls every day from brewers who are now unable to pay their staff or feed their own families.”
They can’t pay their staff. They can’t pay their bills, They can’t pay the loans that they took out in lieu of government assistance.”
CBASA, backed by BASA, has been assisting brewers where they can, issuing Pick ‘n’ Pay vouchers for brewery owners to dish out to staff that they simply cannot afford to pay until beer sales are once again allowed. But the need is huge. This past year has been tough, financially, for many but if you’re able to assist, you can head over to Webtickets and buy a PnP voucher – they start at just R50. You can then email the voucher to email@example.com who will make sure it gets to those that have been worst hit by the ban.
How else can you help?
Buying the vouchers is a great way to directly help craft beer employees that have been left without an income due to the alcohol ban, but we also want to make sure we still have some craft breweries left once this mess is all over. Here are a few things you can do. Many breweries are still taking online orders, which will be dispatched as soon as Cyril says so. Ordering online helps brewers to maintain some cash flow while they can’t actually operate. You could also support by purchasing merchandise or, if the taproom is still open, popping in for a meal and some sort of non-alcoholic beverage.
Hopefully, if we can work together we can help ensure that South Africa still has some semblance of a craft beer industry this time next year.