The non-profit company Vinpro, representing 3,500 SA wine producers, will head to court on Monday (23 August) to fight the government’s ongoing alcohol ban and fully reopen the industry. Since the beginning of the national lockdown in March 2020, there has been four complete bans of alcohol.
Under the current adjusted level 3 lockdown, which came into effect on 26 July, the sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption is only permitted between 10h00 and 18h00 from Monday to Thursday. Alcohol sales for on-site consumption are however permitted as per licence conditions up to 20h00.
Vinpro is contesting the approach followed by the government towards alcohol restrictions within the Disaster Management Act. The case is scheduled to be heard in the Western Cape High Court from 23 to 26 August 2021.
“Since the start of this pandemic, we have argued that the provinces, not the national government, should decide whether or not to impose liquor restrictions and should do so with reference to provincial circumstances, including the need to preserve capacity in trauma units in hospitals in the province,” said Vinpro managing director Rico Basson.
“We know provinces are affected differently by the pandemic; therefore, we believe a differentiated approach in handling the crisis is needed to limit the economic impact of a lockdown.”
Vinpro already launched its legal application during the second wave of Covid-19 cases in January 2021 and has also approached the court to include evidence for how the blanket liquor ban missed its purpose during the third wave.
“While we have challenged the government’s decision by way of an urgent interdict application and hearing on 21 July 2021, the matter was subsequently rendered academic because the ban was partially lifted four days later.
“In an interim application, we now ask that this evidence should also be taken into account,” Basson said.
The government has strongly opposed its application to introduce such further evidence, arguing that it is moot as the ban has been partially lifted.
“However, we have seen how the government has dealt with the previous liquor bans. A blanket ban is imposed repeatedly, and with a fourth wave likely to hit the country in December, this issue most certainly is not moot,” said Basson.
“Wine is part of agriculture, as is tourism. Our industry supports 80,183 people working at farm level and 228,053 people working further down the wine value chain.”
According to Basson, the wine industry has built a strong brand reputation as a unique asset.
“The South African wine industry is more than a drink; it’s a livelihood. And it is our responsibility to make sure we save this industry for future generations.”