Monday, 17 January, 2022
HomeMedico-LegalSA’s alcohol industry hits back at its fourth lockdown ban

SA’s alcohol industry hits back at its fourth lockdown ban

The alcohol industry is fighting back against the fourth liquor ban, with one body approaching the High Court for an urgent interdict against the ban in the Western Cape and another requesting that wine farms be allowed to sell wine online, reports Business Day.

The fourth ban has been enacted by the government even though the three others lasted for a total 19 weeks, and cost the industry up to R37bn in lost sales and the state R27bn in taxes.

Vinpro, the body representing most wine producers and grape farmers, filed an urgent interdict to lift the ban on the sale of alcohol in the Western Cape and asked the court to allow the Western Cape provincial government to make its own rules on liquor sales. The expected court date is Friday.

Vinpro has an existing case that will be heard in August, but is asking for an urgent hearing due to the fourth ban. Vinpro is not arguing against restrictions when hospitals and trauma units are under pressure. But it says that the nationwide liquor bans are “overbroad, unnecessary, unjustified and, indeed, counterproductive”, especially as Covid-19 infection rates often differ from province to province.

Vinproʼs continuing non-urgent court case against President Cyril Ramaphosa, co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Western Cape premier Alan Winde was postponed from March to August.

Meanwhile, the Southern African Agri Initiative (Saai), which represents more than 100 wine farmers across the country, has written to Dlamini- Zuma, requesting her to allow the sale of wine by wine farmers particularly through e-commerce channels, since “a minority of South Africans consume wine, of which, a small percentage consumes wine heavily”.

Saai, through its lawyers, argues that the consumption of wines sold specifically by wine farmers is limited and consequently any potential impact it might have on hospital capacity is also limited.

“SA wine consumers do not consume large amounts of wine when compared to other countries and beer remains the beverage mostly consumed. Wine consumption is characterised by safe drinking behaviour, while the consumption of beer/cider and spirits are associated with problematic drinking behaviour,” Saaiʼs legal representatives said in the letter.

The DA has also written to Dlamini-Zuma pointing out that the current regulations do not allow for wine to be transported to storage or bottling plants, or allow for the transport of samples to laboratories or certification bodies as required per legislation, and the regulations therefore need to be modified.

The SA Liquor Brand Owners Association (Salba), whose members include Distell and the beer industry body, has written to the ministerial advisory committee (MAC) to ask for the scientific reasoning behind the fourth alcohol ban.

The industry has pointed out that no other country, including India, where the Delta variant was first identified, has enforced alcohol bans. Salba chair Sibani Mngadi said: “We would therefore like to understand what international best practice or local scientific data was used for the MAC to conclude that the off-and-on consumption sales ban was the best solution.”

During the third ban from December 29 to February 2, Salba wrote a similar letter to the MAC requesting the scientific reasoning behind the ban to be provided, but it did not receive an answer.

Brewer SAB, owned by AB InBev, has yet to comment publicly on the ban after withdrawing R5bn in investment last year due to the bans and recommitting R2bn in production upgrades this year on the assumption that there would be no further blanket prohibition.

 

Full report in BusinessDay Live (Restricted access)

 

See also from the MedicalBrief archives:

 

Western Cape govt, liquor traders and restaurants target alcohol ban

 

Alcohol industry – R150 million boost for harm reduction initiatives

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