Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma notes and welcomes the Western Cape High Court’s judgment delivered on 03 December 2021 dismissing an application brought by the Counsel for wine producers’ body, Vinpro, to challenge the Constitutionality and lawfulness of the nationwide liquor bans imposed by Government during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Vinpro launched the application to ostensibly vindicate the constitutional values of respect for the rule of law, inter-governmental co-operation and public accountability; as well as vindicate various constitutional rights, arguing, amongst others, that the power to impose restrictions on retail sales of liquor is exclusively vested in the provincial sphere of government.
The Minister, representing the national government, successfully argued that the regulations were not aimed at addressing the impact of alcohol on society generally but were rather aimed at capacitating the health system during trying times. This, because South Africa has a much higher burden of alcohol-related trauma cases than experienced in many other countries.
The Minister further successfully argued that the provisions of Section 26(2)(b) of the Disaster Management Act, stipulate that the national executive must deal with a national disaster in terms of existing legislation and contingency arrangements as augmented by regulations or directions made or issued in terms of section 27(2), if a national state of disaster has been declared.
Government remains committed to saving lives and protecting livelihoods as the country continues to grapple with Covid-19.
It is also important to note that although the regulations had the effect of suspending or limiting the sale and distribution of liquor, it would have done so in furtherance of the objective of reducing the socio-economic and other costs of alcohol use (not necessarily abuse) and of promoting the development of a responsible and sustainable liquor industry as the envisaged end result thereof was to ease the pressure on the health care system at a time when it was placed under severe strain by the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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