South African Breweries (SAB) has argued that the government’s assertion that its decision to ban the sale of alcohol was taken carefully is without merit. “It quite manifestly was not, in that the government had not commissioned any proper investigation into the deleterious effects of such a ban and was therefore not in a position to have any regard to the issue,” said Richard Rivett-Carnac, SAB vice-president of finance in a replying affidavit.
A TimesLIVE report notes SAB is challenging the government’s alcohol ban, imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, in the Western Cape High Court – despite it now being lifted. The challenge, according to SAB lawyers, was “in the interests of legal certainty and … to ensure that its (SAB's) continued business operations are not interrupted unnecessarily by further unlawful and unconstitutional prohibitions”.
The government has argued the recent alcohol ban, which President Cyril Ramaphosa lifted this month, did not breach any part of the Bill of Rights.
Rivett-Carnac argued that the government had failed to set out “verifiable, objective, and indisputable facts” regarding temporary and permanent job losses, among other considerations. “I wish to point out that whenever the respondents and their advisers point to a reduction in trauma cases that correlates with the alcohol ban, that reduction also correlates with other restrictions such as curfews, limitations on gatherings, prohibition of crowds in stadiums, closure of cinemas and casinos and restrictions on restaurants.” He said when trauma cases increased again, that correlated not only with the easing of the alcohol ban, but with the easing of other restrictions.
SAB found the allegation that it demonstrated no reverence for the dignity of health-care workers and lacked empathy to be “insulting”.“I emphasise that SAB did not object to the first two complete alcohol bans, or the restrictions on the sale of alcohol that had been in place since March 2020 … That said, these measures must be reasonable, necessary and justifiable,” argued Rivett-Carnac.
The government had also not provided any evidence that it had taken the economic consequences of the alcohol ban into account before the decision to reimpose it.
Full TimesLIVE report (Open access)