Home South African Parties unite against forum’s threat to fight booze ban in court

Parties unite against forum’s threat to fight booze ban in court

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Political parties say that the unbanning of the sale of alcohol will be detrimental to the government’s efforts to drastically reduce the spread of the coronavirus

SOUTH African political parties have taken a united stand to oppose calls by the liquor industry for the government to lift its ban on the sale of alcohol during the nationwide lockdown which President Cyril Ramaphosa has since extended by two weeks.

This follows weekend calls by the Gauteng Liquor Forum for the government to relax its ban on the sale of liquor. The organisation, which represents 20 000 shebeen and tavern owners, also threatened to take legal action against Ramaphosa at the Constitutional Court, telling the president that he had until Tuesday to relax the ban. 

Ramaphosa’s legal representatives on Tuesday asked the forum to postpone talks of legal action until Friday, April 17, as the National Command Council (NCC) is set to discuss concerns raised over the banning of alcohol sales. 

The state legal representative said that Ramaphosa and the NCC would meet this week to discuss the government’s economic assistance as the country entered week three of the national lockdown. 

“We anticipate that the results of this discussion may well have a bearing on the issues raised by your clients. Therefore, in order to be in a position to respond to your letter fully, we ask that you afford us until the close of business on Friday, April 17, to respond to your letter,” the state legal representative said in a letter addressed to Mabuza Attorneys, the legal representatives for the liquor forum. 

Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said there were a number of associations which also operated in the liquor industry that had distanced themselves from the call to relax the lockdown regulations, understanding the need for these measures at this time. 

“Nonetheless, the Cabinet will be meeting during the course of the week to discuss details of the government’s economic assistance programme. Such discussions will obviously have a bearing on the Gauteng Liquor Board’s clients and other small businesses. The Presidency will therefore await the outcome of those discussions before commenting further,” said Diko.

The forum’s call has been criticised by political parties, which have said that the unbanning of the sale of alcohol would be detrimental to the government’s efforts to drastically reduce the spread of the virus in the country. 

EFF spokesperson Vuyani Pambo said that the sale of alcohol during the war against Covid-19 to communities with historic existing problems of access to adequate health care, malnutrition and general hunger only served one purpose, “to finish our people off”. 

Pambo said that the EFF was prepared to assemble a powerful legal team to face the Gauteng Liquor Forum head on by opposing any court application it planned to bring before the courts to get the sale of alcohol unbanned during the lockdown.

“The EFF calls on the government to unequivocally oppose the relaxation of alcohol restrictions. We must refuse to be drawn into a general conspiracy for mass murder by the alcohol industry. Long has this industry benefited out of the destruction of life, in particular the lives of the poor majority, which are blacks,” said Pambo. 

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) deputy president Wayne Thring said it was fully behind the banning of the sale and movement of alcohol as the substance also contributed significantly to social ills plaguing the country, including accidents and crime.

“It is well documented that many accidents recorded and crimes committed in the country are alcohol related, and that there was a correlation between increased accident and crime levels and the abuse of alcohol,” said Thring. 

He said that many incidents of gender-based violence were also alcohol related and that even law enforcement officials who dealt with the aftermath of alcohol abuse incidents could corroborate this. 

“Those who abuse alcohol, in their state of inebriation, increase the risk of others becoming infected with Covid-19 and other infectious diseases. It is mad to think otherwise.” 

The ANC’s Pule Mabe said that the ruling party had frowned upon the liquor industry’s calls for the unbanning of the sale of liquor as those efforts sought to undermine the government’s efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19. 

He called on the business community to take advantage of measures announced by the government to mitigate the detrimental effects of the lockdown on their operations. This included accessing small business debt relief and business growth facilities, to which the government had allocated millions of rand. 

Eric Mabuza, the Gauteng Liquor Forum lawyer, said that they were expecting a response from Ramaphosa before close of business on Tuesday. “If they don’t come back to us … we will proceed with filing papers,” Mabuza said.