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Vinpro considers appealing high court judgment on alcohol bans

Managing director of the wine industry body Vinpro, Rico Basson. Picture: Supplied

Managing director of the wine industry body Vinpro, Rico Basson. Picture: Supplied

Published Dec 10, 2021

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Cape Town - Vinpro is considering whether to appeal the judgment issued by a three-judge bench of the Western Cape High Court which ruled against them in a case where they challenged the constitutionality and lawfulness of the nationwide liquor bans imposed by the national government during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Judge Mokgoatji Dolamo who was joined on the bench by judges Hayley Slingers and Derek Wille based their ruling on the three points argued during Vinpro’s court case, which was heard from August 23 to 25 this year.

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These were Vinpro’s arguments regarding the structure of Government (provincial versus national), an interim application asking to take evidence regarding the third wave into account and the issue of mootness, since the ban had been partially lifted at the time.

Vinpro managing director Rico Basson said Vinpro was considering an application to appeal the judgment even though initial advice they had received was that an appeal, should leave be granted, would not achieve much as it would probably only be heard in the second half of 2022.

“Vinpro, however, reserves the right to again approach the court on an urgent basis should it be deemed necessary.”

Vinpro launched its legal application during the second wave in January this year claiming the blanket liquor ban missed its purpose during the third wave.

In August the government’s advocate Nazreen Bawa SC, argued that every time restrictions are announced Vinpro challenged them and by the time the challenge got to court, it had become an academic exercise.

“Whether the January restrictions were necessary does not reflect on whether future restrictions will be necessary on the basis of the case here. The Covid-19 pandemic is a national disaster, and liquor bans must be navigated at national level.”

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In the ruling, the judges said: “At the outset, the applicant makes the concession that by temporarily reducing the consumption of alcohol, it does indeed protect our health-care system and prevent it being overwhelmed by the pandemic.

“Several preliminary issues arose for determination in view of the fact that the initial application at the instance of the applicant underwent a chameleonic change due to the effluxion of time.”

Reacting to the judgment, Basson said the judges had erred in finding that Vinpro made the concession that by temporarily reducing the consumption, this does protect the health-care system.

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“Vinpro in fact emphasised that it remains the responsibility of the government to create capacity in health care and use targeted interventions to reduce the impact on lives and livelihoods,” Basson said.

He said Vinpro was concerned that the court had bent over backwards to accommodate the government and had not provided clarity on important issues raised by Vinpro, especially in respect of the government’s blunt approach to dealing with lockdowns, instead of a nimble, provincial-based approach.

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