Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in papers before the High Court that the government will re-evaluate the alcohol ban regularly, since it wants to limit the hardships facing the economy and livelihoods during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Dlamini-Zuma made the claim in court papers explaining why government re-imposed the alcohol ban in response to a challenge by wine farmers. In papers filed in the Western Cape High Court, Dlamini-Zuma said government has no desire to leave the alcohol ban in place longer than necessary, reports News24.
“It is contemplated that the suspension of the sale of liquor will be re-evaluated with regularity as government aims to also limit hardships facing the economy and individual livelihoods during this period. There is no desire on the part of government to leave this prohibition in place for longer than it is regarded necessary,” she told the court.
The Southern African Agri Initiative, which represents 120 wine farmers, approached the court, calling the alcohol ban “irrational, arbitrary and unreasonable”. Dlamini-Zuma gave a detailed account of how the decision to reimpose the ban was arrived at, including listing several advisories received by the Ministerial Advisory Committee advising government. “I considered a wide array of empirical evidence as to whether a temporary prohibition on liquor was an appropriate tool to alleviate the burden caused by the rapidly increasing rate of transmission of COVID-19 and overcrowded hospitals, and whether less stringent methods might yield the same results.”
Dlamini-Zuma says in her record of decision-making running to 350 pages that wine cannot be singled out as a unique product and that “alcohol” is defined in the Liquor Act as wine, beer and any other alcoholic product. According to a report in Die Burger, Dlamini-Zuma says this does not mean the wine industry was not considered “as is evident from the fact that the production, storage and transport of alcohol for export is allowed”. The reason for the prohibition is purely to protect the country’s medical infrastructure, she says, and there is no empirical evidence that wine contributes less or more to alcohol-related hospitalisations.
Daniël Eloff, the wine farmers’ attorney, says they will now prepare supplementary papers based on the record of decision-making. He says it is immediately apparent that most of the information provided by Dlamini-Zuma referred to the initial banning of alcohol sales and not the second round.
The record also does not indicate that the government considered any alternatives to a complete alcohol sales ban to achieve the stated objectives.
Full News24 report
Full report in Die Burger (subscription needed)