Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) has received a boost from trade unions that have thrown their weight behind the call to lift the ban on alcohol in order to avoid massive job losses.
“Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) and Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) have been following and are gravely concerned by the continued restrictions imposed by government on the sale of liquor, more recently a total and indefinite ban, as a measure to control the COVID-19 pandemic,” the two union federations say in a joint press statement released this week.
“While we share government’s concern for the spread of the corona virus, we sincerely hold the view that a unilateral decision by government on a matter that hinges so hugely on the national economy cannot be acceptable under any circumstances.
“Among other reasons cited by KBL for taking the matter to court is the fact that government’s wholesale ban is improper and (is) not premised on any clear and objective evidence demonstrating a causal link between the ban on alcohol and reduction of positive COVID-19 cases.”
The statement of the massive unions cites the results of preliminary investigations by the Institute of Labour and Employment Studies (ELES) that show that 50 000 employees and approximately 200 000 livelihoods face risks of economic hardships and starvation as a result of the ban on alcohol. “Further to this, it should be noted that KBL utilises two critical inputs in its production process, being water and electricity,” says the statement that adds that the utilities stand to lose millions in revenue if the ban is not lifted.
They point out that COVID-19 affects all sectors of the economy, including tourism, and call on the government not to single out the alcohol industry as “the culprit in the spread of the corona virus”.
They note that the alcohol industry is a multi-million pula and its value chain sustains many livelihoods across the country. “Our priority as a nation in the fight against coronavirus is to save human life (sic) and also save the economy against total collapse,” says the statement.
Instead of the government’s unilateral decision to impose a ban on alcohol, BFTU and BOFEPUSU call for “social dialogue” aimed at saving the economy from collapse. “Leaders in the various economic sectors should be engaged in the course of this balancing act,” they say in their joint statement.
The statement does not spare the reckless behaviour of consumers of alcohol who disregard COVID-19 regulations. It acknowledges that “there seems” to be a correlation between the spread of the coronavirus and consumption of alcohol because people tend to gather at drinking places like bars and other liquor outlets. “It is this behaviour that to the extent understandable gives fodder to the spread of the coronavirus,” the unions say.
Meanwhile, hearing of the case in which Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) wants the court to reverse President Masisi’s ban on alcohol is set for August 3rd. However, government had up to the yesterday (15th) to have responded.
KBL is represented by Minchin & Kelly law firm and has cited the Attorney General and the Director of Health Services alongside the President as respondents.