FRANCISTOWN: The country's leading brewer, Kalahari Breweries Limited (KBL) a subsidiary of Sechaba Breweries Holdings Limited (SBHL) has said that the government's willingness to review the highly regulated alcohol trading environment is a welcome development.
Over the last decade, KBL’s business has suffered heavily as a result of the country’s stringent alcohol regulations and the ever-increasing alcohol levy.
Last week other alcohol stakeholders and social commentators welcomed the idea by the government to review the country’s alcohol policy.
“It is our firm belief that the move to review the stringent conditions for the better, will go a long way in assisting us to realise our dream of bringing people together for a better world. “Our core business requires a healthy natural environment and thriving communities. We would therefore be committed to improving lives in the communities we are part of, and play a positive role within them,” KBL spokesperson, Masegonyana Madisa said.
Madisa added that although the intention of the alcohol levy, as well as stiffer alcohol-trading regulations was to curb excessive alcohol consumption, the reality is that the effects have had adverse impact on the alcohol industry and the entire supply chain.
“It is our belief that the initial noble intent was not achieved as our research shows. The once thriving creative and entertainment industries that were supported by KBL and other companies have also been significantly impacted on,” he highlighted. Both SBHL and KBL have seen their profit margins significantly hit as indicated in their annual reports over the years.
In fact, some of the measures taken by the companies to stay afloat have been so drastic that they have resulted in the closure of opaque and clear beer depots across the country, the laying-off of staff and sponsorship cuts including the rolling back of major Corporate
In 2015 KBL closed its opaque beer wing in Palapye, a development that left 57 employees jobless.
Then KBL said it closed its Palapye operations due to low sales, perpetuated by the introduction of the levy, reduction of trading hours and banning of selling alcohol in homes. Prior to the retrenchments in Palapye, the company laid off 88 employees following a decision to close down its opaque drinks plant in Lobatse.
In all occasions, the company said that an untenable trading environment that has been characterised by unfavourable alcohol policies brought about the development. There were even fears that the company might cease operations as a result of unfavourable trading conditions. The alcohol levy currently stands at 55% and has contributed over P1.2 billion to government coffers since it was introduced in 2008.
Under former president, Ian Khama the government took a decision to reduce the liquor trading hours and impose a levy on alcohol in a bid to ‘fight alcohol abuse’. The move was met with disapproval from various stakeholders. Khama had made it no secret during his reign that he detested alcohol.
Two weeks ago, during a Kgotla meeting in Rakops, President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced that his government was in the process of reviewing the country’s position on the controversial alcohol regulations. Masisi repeated his remarks last week when addressing some Batswana in eSwatini where he was on a State visit. The International Affairs and Cooperation minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, also made remarks similar to those of the President at a Kgotla meeting in her constituency recently.