THIS Wednesday, a wine body will argue in the Western Cape High Court that provinces should be given authority to allow for off-site alcohol sales.
Vinpro, which represents over 2 600 wines and grape producers, approached the courts last week with an urgent application to lift the ban on the sale of alcohol in the wake of the country’s return to level four restrictions.
Days later, South African Breweries (SAB) also launched their own application challenging the government's fourth ban on the sale of alcohol, although they are yet to receive a hearing date.
Vinpro’s lawyer, Charles van Breda, said the application seeks to give Premier Alan Winde authority to deviate from regulations to allow the sale of alcohol for off-site consumption.
“Vinpro has selected the Western Cape to bring this challenge as the wine industry is primarily situated here. Similar challenges may be brought in other provinces in due course,” he said.
“In the alternative, the Premier should at least be consulted about the imposition, extension or lifting of a liquor ban in the Western Cape province.”
Van Breda said the court should also rule that failure by the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to lift the alcohol ban by the time the case is heard in court, be declared unconstitutional, and the court should lift the ban in the Western Cape with immediate effect.
“In addition, to the extent that the liquor ban is still in force in the Western Cape by the time that the application for interim relief is heard, declaring the failure of the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to lift that ban in the province unconstitutional and invalid. And substituting for the failure a decision to lift the ban in the Western Cape with immediate effect.”
Chairperson of the Craft Brewers Association of South Africa (Cbasa), Wendy Pienaar, said the liquor ban had a devastating effect on the industry as no one has had a chance to recover from the limited trading in the past year.
“Small businesses are sitting with large amounts of debt, continuing expenses (including licensing fees which have not been extended, despite the loss in trading days), no income and no financial help on the horizon. It is a recipe for disaster for any small business,” she said.
Pienaar added that Cbasa was in full support of SAB’s efforts to hold the government accountable for the loss suffered in this time, especially families suffering in poverty.
“Cbasa is a non-profit organisation focused on assisting our members. Right now, we are using the small number of funds we have available to ensure that the brewery staff can feed their families.”
“When talking about a loss of income in rand, we are talking about the smaller businesses. Within our value chain, the small independent farmer who supplies the raw ingredients is now sitting without income and additional expense for storage, hoping the crops can still be used when trading opens,” she added.
“The printing company, the delivery company, and so many more. The domino effect continues as small businesses continue to close, which leaves more people unemployed.”
The alcohol industry had warned that this lasted ban on alcohol would only serve to boost the illicit market, which the South African Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) said costs the government billions.
“The latest ban is cause for celebration when it comes to the illicit alcohol industry, which cost the national fiscus R11.3 billion last year alone. The prohibition of alcohol will not stop South Africans drinking. Instead, consumers will purchase their alcohol from illegal outlets, putting their health and safety at risk,” said Basa chief executive Patricia Pillay.
One owner of a shebeen in Philippi on the Cape Flats said some owners are selling their stock out of desperation.
“The ‘take it or leave it’ entrepreneurs are back in business and are making a killing, especially now with the weekend after month-end. Prices for a six-pack of your basic 330ml six -ack of cider cost anything from R170 to R200 while your gins and vodka range from R300 to R600 per bottle, which is basically twice more than the price in stores,” said the owner who did not want to be named
“They are being sold at the back of shebeens, in people’s cars, messages go via WhatsApp – it's a full-fledged market where you can have it delivered to your doorstep if you so wish while legal traders are suffering the financial consequences of this.”