Court challenge to ban on wine sales
Pretoria - The continued ban on the on-site consumption of wine on farms, in restaurants and at hotels is financially crippling the industry.
An overwhelming amount of restaurants find it unprofitable to resume operations without the right to sell and serve wine.
This is according to the Southern Africa Agri Initiative and several wine farmers, who will turn to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria next month in a bid to lift the ban on the selling and transporting of wine under the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
The Agri Initiative, together with several associations and wine farms, are asking that the regulations imposed by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma be declared invalid and unconstitutional where it relates to the transportation and selling of wine.
The applicants say the ban infringes on their constitutional rights to produce wine and on that of their workers to earn a living.
Apart from asking that these regulations be overturned, the applicants also want the full record on which the government relied in banning the sale of alcohol, especially wine.
Francois Rossouw, chief executive of the Agri Initiative, said in an affidavit that many wine farms in the Western Cape operate as family businesses, some with on-site restaurants.
He said the wine farmers and their workers’ jobs were on the line if the ban on wine sales was not overturned. He said the continued ban on the sale of wine for on-site consumption on wine farms, restaurants and hotels was irrational.
Rossouw said the wine farm industry cannot survive the devastating impact of the ban.
“South Africa’s wine industry’s cash flow condition is under severe pressure. Wine sales were already in double-digit decline prior to the onset of Covid-19.”
Rossouw said the fact that no wine tasting or on-site selling of wine was allowed during this time, also meant that people were no longer visiting wine farms.
He questioned the evidence the minister had that the sale and consumption of wine would increase the risk of Covid-19 or overburden the health-care system.
Rossouw said while hundreds of workers on these wine farms had already lost their jobs, many vulnerable farmworkers also faced further hardships as their tenure on farms depended on their employment there.
He said there was no justification for the ban on selling wine with sit-down meals as the same hygiene and protocols would apply as those for the consumption of meals.
Rossouw said the minister could, by way of regulations, limit the quantity of wine that may be sold during meals and on the wine farms if she feared that this may overburden the health-care system.
Several of the wine farms, such as Fairview and Rust and Vrede, which formed part of the applicants, issued confirmatory affidavits to the court, in which they set out their hardships in not being able to sell or transport their wines.
Many feared that the continued ban would totally destroy this in- dustry.
The government has yet to submit its opposing papers. The application is expected to be heard on August 18.
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