Picture: Rob Carr/AP
Picture: Rob Carr/AP

SAB to challenge legality of booze ban

By Se-Anne Rall Time of article published Jan 6, 2021

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SOUTH African Breweries is set to challenge the legality of the government's latest alcohol ban.

In a statement earlier today, SAB said while it supports all lawful measures that curb the spread of the pandemic, the ban was disproportional and unlawful.

“After much consideration, SAB has decided to approach the courts to challenge the constitutionality of the decision taken and process followed by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to re-ban the sale of alcohol. This legal action is the last resort available to SAB in order to protect our employees, suppliers, customers, consumers and all the livelihoods we support,” SAB said.

During his speech to the country, just days ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa banned the sale of alcohol as part of the regulations of an adjusted lockdown.

SAB said it shared the government’s concerns regarding the second wave resurgence and it remained determined to continue to collaborate and engage on meaningful, lawful measures that safeguard both the lives and livelihoods of our people, communities and country. However, it called on calls on the government to work closely with the alcohol industry to allow for the earliest possible lifting of the ban and rather to find sustainable solutions to fight the pandemic.

“During 2020, we worked hard to be a part of the solution. In the absence of a vaccine, we have used our voice, our value chain, our distribution network and our marketing capabilities to help communicate the need for adherence to strict Covid-19 protocols and responsible consumption,” SAB said.

SAB believed that any ban, including the current one, goes far beyond what is reasonable and necessary to contain the spread of the virus and unlawfully restricts various rights that are enshrined and protected by our constitution. These include the right to freedom of trade, the right to human dignity, privacy, and the right to bodily and psychological integrity.

The industry made representation to the government in December last year to consider several alternatives rather than imposing an outright nationwide ban on all formal sales of alcohol. These alternatives, which were not taken into account, included the restrictions on trade channels, with taverns moving from on- to off-premise trading and trading days and hours to remaining restricted for off-premise outlets.

“SAB firmly believes that the above proposed limitations coupled with an earlier curfew, would have been reasonable and effective in supporting the health-care system and would help to mitigate transmission of the virus while still preserving livelihoods and keeping the economy open,” it said.

As seen with the last two bans, the unintended consequences of an outright ban on the sale of alcohol are dire.

Over 165 000 people have already lost their jobs with a further 100 000 people moving into poverty as a result of the alcohol bans.

“We have seen small and large businesses severely impacted, billions of rand lost in taxes, the entrenchment of illicit trading and the looting of alcohol stores. Restricting the legal trade of alcohol fuels the growth of the illicit market, a fact that is widely acknowledged internationally. The illicit market is outside the regulatory reach of government, leading to devastating consequences from a health and economic perspective,” SAB said. | IOL

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