A worker checks bottles of wine coming out of a production line at Nederburg Wine Estate in Paarl. Picture Reuters/Mike Hutchings
A worker checks bottles of wine coming out of a production line at Nederburg Wine Estate in Paarl. Picture Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Agri Initiative shelves court action against sale of wine during level 3 lockdown

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Aug 20, 2020

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Pretoria - The Southern African Agri Initiative has placed on ice its urgent court action to force the government to allow the sale of wine during level 3 of the lockdown.

Its chief executive, Francois Rossouw earlier this week said they would go ahead with their legal challenge before a full Bench of the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria next week.

He described the government’s announcement to relax the lockdown regulations as “too little, too late”. The case was on the urgent court roll last week, to be heard by a single judge. Shortly before the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the sale of alcohol would be unbanned from this week, the Agri Initiative received a directive from the court that three judges would hear the application on an urgent basis.

But the Agri Initiative subsequently decided to postpone its application against Co-operative and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma indefinitely. This means they can approach the court at any time if the minister should revert to a level 3 ban on the sale of alcohol - and wine in particular.

Rossouw said pressure exerted by several court cases on the irrational regulations proclaimed by Dlamini Zuma under levels 4 and 3 of the State of Disaster had forced her to abolish level 3 in its entirety. He said this was after his organisation had fought on several fronts against what he called the draconian lockdown regulations, including the ban on the sale of tobacco and alcohol and restrictions on hunting.

Rossouw referred to court documents in which the organisation had pointed out that the decision to ban the sale of alcohol was based on obsolete data, poor argumentation and incorrect predictions.

The application was launched in an attempt to save about 240 family wine estates and 21000 job opportunities.

Rossouw said prior to the promulgation of the level 2 regulations, the minister’s legal team requested them to withdraw the case against the ban on wine following the weekend announcement.

The wine farmers, however, refused to have the case removed from the court roll in view of the minister’s previous promulgation of regulations in contradiction with the president’s speeches.

“It was of cardinal importance to have the wording of the level 2 regulations studied by our legal team before making any decision. On Monday the minister shocked the country by annulling level 3 in its

entirety.

“This means that she cannot, as she had done previously and as was generally feared, return to level 3 regulations, except if a system for level 3 is again promulgated,” Rossouw said.

He explained that in the switch from level 5 to level 4, and from level 4 to level 3, the regulations were simply amended without annulling the previous level.

“Therefore, the minister’s action is in direct contrast with the government’s policy to have levels of regulation in place and that upward or downward movement between levels is possible.”

The organisation said it would keep a close eye on the government’s actions regarding the lockdown regulations and it had not abandoned its legal bid in its entirety.

*For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's #Coronavirus trend page.

** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za

Pretoria News

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