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From ‘alcohol free SA’ to ‘taverns of the future’: Lesufi gets flak for Heineken project endorsement

Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi is in the spotlight for endorsing the Heineken project.
Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi is in the spotlight for endorsing the Heineken project.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi has been criticised for his public endorsement of Heineken's “taverns of the future” project.

This week Lesufi posted on social media a smiley picture of himself outside Heineken’s Sedibeng brewery with the caption: “Today we received a full briefing to launch taverns of the future in our communities. The tavern of the future will blow your mind. Thanks to the new Heineken vision. Exciting times indeed.”

Many people on social media lambasted the premier, describing his endorsement as hypocritical because of his stance on drug and alcohol abuse in communities. 

Some shared Lesufi's previous post on socials in which he said: “The problems of alcohol are real. This problem of alcohol needs brave soldiers, not the faint-hearted. An alcohol-free South Africa is possible, let’s build it now.” 

The provincial government’s partnership with Heineken came a day after Lesufi talked tough on halting the issuing of liquor licenses in the province, decrying alcohol abuse in communities.

Lesufi defended himself, saying though he had strong opinions about alcohol abuse, as the premier he had to consider attracting investments for economic development.

“When I lead the government it’s not about my personal views but attracting investments and creating jobs and opportunities for all. My personal standpoint on alcohol remains,” he said. 

International relations and co-operation department head of diplomacy Clayson Monyela was among those who were not impressed by the premier’s move. 

“My dad was murdered at a tavern in Kagiso. He was only 33. Taverns traumatise me. My heart breaks when I see companies such as Heineken getting endorsement from my government to expand further into our communities. The few ‘jobs’ they're promising are not worth the thousands of lives these people are going to destroy. This is good for Heineken, not for us. I'm so pissed,” Monyela posted.

Some people related to Monyela's experience and shared that taverns were also scenes of the murders of their loved ones. Though Lesufi did not share much information about the launch, some people said it would negatively affect township taverns.

The premier was confident this would not be the case:

“Wait until we launch. You will not be disappointed. Rebranding and repositioning are crucial for future survival.” 

According to Heineken, the “taverns of the future” project is intended to transform the establishments and introduce strengthened safety. 

“Our business would like to support a change from the negative perceptions around taverns, to developing modern taverns of the future. Moving to sophisticated gathering places that are not centred on excessive drinking, but rather offer quality occasions with good food, company and entertainment,” Heineken MD Jordi Borrut said at the project's launch. 

Heineken business development manager Burton Swain said the company wanted to transform taverns by investing in them and revamping infrastructure. 

“To qualify for these upgrades and support, tavern owners need to commit to and sign agreements showcasing themselves as responsible alcohol retailers,” Swain said.

“These commitments include not selling alcohol before lunchtime, not selling to those under 18 years of age and agreeing to ensure they do not encourage or support excessive alcohol consumption.

“Through a recognition and rewards programme, taverners are also regularly coached to ensure they are maintaining their responsibility commitments.”

The debate continues on social media: 

TimesLIVE

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