Home South African SAB loses challenge to lockdown booze ban

SAB loses challenge to lockdown booze ban

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SAB had argued that the government violated its freedom to trade and further violated consumers’ rights to choose to purchase and consume alcohol for pleasure or to relieve anxiety and in so doing violated their rights to dignity, privacy and bodily and psychological integrity.

File picture: Leon Nicholas/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – Major breweries company SAB has been unsuccessful in its legal challenge to the government’s alcohol ban imposed during the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) spokesperson Lungile Mtshali said they welcomed the Western Cape High Court’s ruling handed down on Friday, saying it has “reinforced what we have said all along”.

“The decision to institute the ban was done so for the public’s good. It had to be done to survive and we never retained the regulations beyond any longer than what was necessary. We welcome the judgment,” said Mtshali.

SAB did not responded to media enquiries by deadline on Sunday.

According to its founding affidavit, the economic losses to the country as a result of the alcohol bans included tax losses estimated at R25 billion in 2020.

In a majority ruling, Judge Rosheni Allie, concurred by Judge Judy Cloete, found that the alcohol ban was necessary for assisting and protecting the public, providing relief to the public, preventing disruption to health services, and addressing other destructive effects of the pandemic, like a complete collapse of the health system.

In this, Judge Allie found that the government had acted lawfully.

“I agree with SAB that the making of the Impugned Regulations is an exercise of public power that is subject to Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA), but find that (Cogta’s minister) acted procedurally fairly and rationally given the nature of the exigencies and the indisputable fact that government did not expect the second wave of the virus to be worse than the first wave, nor did it have the luxury of time to consult more broadly when the applicable variant was highly transmissible. Covid-19-related deaths had escalated substantially and the health system was in danger of collapsing.”

SAB had argued that the government violated its freedom to trade and further violated consumers’ rights to choose to purchase and consume alcohol for pleasure or to relieve anxiety and in so doing, violated their rights to dignity, privacy and bodily and psychological integrity.

This while the respondents argued that health-care facilities were under enormous strain during the pandemic.

“The fact of the matter is that the evidence establishes that the drop in trauma presentations correlates to all the restrictions. Whether or not the alcohol bans had a substantial impact more than the others, thereby justifying its necessity in the context of the Disaster Management Act, remains to be determined,” the judgment read.

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