Alcohol sector cries victimisation

Players in the alcohol sector have once more asked government to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the current surge in COVID-19 cases in the country has any direct link to alcohol usage.

Last month, government moved to prohibit the sale of alcohol in the country, arguing the consumption of alcohol was the major reason cases of Corona Virus were on the rise. Kgalagadi Breweries Limited, the country’s biggest producer of clear and opaque beers has since taken government to court, calling for the ban on alcohol to be lifted as there is no evidence which suggests that the sector’s operation has fueled rising Covid -19 cases. KBL has since taken government to court on an urgent basis, calling for the ban to be lifted and allow the sector to trade again.

“The President has once more failed to prove in his responding affidavit that the alcohol sector is solely responsible for the surge in Covid-19 cases,” said an industry player in the sector which employs thousands of people around the country. “We find it strange that government is singling out the alcohol for the rise on Covid -19 cases, yet other sectors of the economy are in full operation and nothing is being said about them,” said Peter Noke, the Chairperson of Botswana Beverages Association during a recent press briefing. "As a sector, we have been compliant.

However, we are of the view that, there is limited law enforcement on the side of government. As an industry, we want the sector to open so that we can be able to monitor our members." The alcohol sector, which is already under distress due to the imposed Alcohol Levy, employs well over 50 000 people, excluding the over 200 000 people who depended on the sector. KBL, which is a subsidiary of Sechaba, a Botswana Stock Exchange, has in place a lot of initiatives which are aimed at ensuring safe opening of the sector. One such initiative, implemented by Botswana Alcohol Industry Association is ‘Di Nwele Dladleng', which encourages responsible home drinking of alcohol.

Players in the sector are questioning government real motives in closing the sector that pays millions of Pula in taxes annually. “We wonder why government is saying the sector is contributing to an increase on Covid -19 cases, yet since April last year, we have been operating on off-site consumption only. Up to this date, government has failed to name a single liquor outlet which has recorded Covid -19 case. We strongly believe government is using the alcohol sector as a scape goat,” said a concerned bar owner based in Gaborone.