The government is not buckling under the pressure to lift the temporary ban on the sale of alcohol and is adamant it is one of a number of crucial measures taken to slow or reduce the rate of Covid-19 infections.
Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said in an affidavit filed with the North Gauteng High Court the temporary ban would be regularly re-evaluated.
(The) government also aims to limit hardships facing the economy and individual livelihoods during this period. There is no desire on the part of (the) government to leave this prohibition in place for longer than necessary,” the minister said.
She filed an opposing affidavit following an urgent application by several wine farmers, the Southern Africa Agri Initiative (Saai), and others.
They are asking the court to lift the ban on the sale of wine under the lockdown regulations.
In opposing the application, the minister said an assessment of the number of Covid-19 cases in the country and the availability of health-care infrastructure and staff would form part of the assessment as to how long the ban would remain in place.
The wine farmers are asking for the regulations by Dlamini Zuma be declared invalid and unconstitutional where they relate to the transportation and selling of wine.
The applicants say the ban infringes on their constitutional rights to produce wine and on those of their workers to earn a living.
They will argue that the position of wine is vastly different from that of other types of alcohol. According to them, reports show that wine consumers fall within the “safe” category of alcohol consumers, and that there is no evidence of wine consumers contributing to the overburdening of the country’s health system.
But the minister said limiting the ban to one or more types of liquor would not achieve the intended objectives. “The most effective means was to impose a complete prohibition with immediate effect. Urgent steps were necessary,” she said.
The minister said a differential approach would have simply meant that “drinkers would substitute their preferred type of alcohol for wine”.
Besides, she added, drinking wine could also lead to intoxication.
The minister said there was a “delicate balance” between saving lives and allowing the sale of alcohol during this stage of the pandemic.
The applicants are of the opinion that some of the data that the minister had relied on in deciding on the temporary ban on the sale of alcohol appeared to be untrustworthy.
Dlamini Zuma said it was based on science – an avenue which the courts should best leave to scientists.
Saai chief executive Francois Rossouw said they would file a reply to the minister’s affidavit today. He said they should know by early next week when the application would be heard.
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