Wine farmers doubt booze ban is based on pandemic.
AFTER receiving the record from the government on which it based its decision to ban alcohol sales during lockdown, wine farmers say most material relates to the long-term harm of alcohol and is not related to the pandemic.
This is the latest sequel to several of the country’s wine farmers heading to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, later this month against the ban on the sale of wine.
In a supplementary affidavit now filed by Francois Rossouw, chief executive of SA Agri Initiative, it is said Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma only focused on inputs which favoured the ban.
During the current lockdown regulations the minister should focus on the Covid-19 pandemic and how to alleviate its effects, he said.
“It is not the time to push an agenda against alcohol usage,” he said.
The Agri Initiative is one of the parties who along with several wine farmers will ask for an urgent order to lift the ban on the selling and transporting of wine under the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
The organisation is asking that the regulations imposed by 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 right to produce wine and on that of their workers to earn a living.
In his latest affidavit, Rossouw said from reading the record on which the minister based her decision to ban alcohol sales during this time, it appears that she did not even consider differentiating between types of alcohol, its usage and sale.
“She did not at all deem it relevant to consider consumer patterns in relation to wine. She also did not obtain evidence regarding the contribution, if any, of the abuse of wine to trauma cases.”
Rossouw said the position of wine was vastly different from that of other types of alcohol. He said reports show that wine consumers fall within the “safe” category of alcohol consumers, and that there was no evidence of wine consumers contributing to the overburdening of the country’s health system during lockdown.
Some of the data on which the minister had relied appears to be untrustworthy, he said.
“For instance, she merely accepted as correct a submission from the ‘Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance’ that ‘polls’ suggest a large component of the public supports an alcohol ban.
“No information regarding these ‘polls’ and the manner in which they were conducted is provided. It was merely accepted since it suits the impugned decision.”
Rossouw said the information used by the minister suggested a significant decline in trauma cases during Level 5.
But one could not merely attribute this to alcohol usage, he said. During Level 5, there were fewer people on the roads and a reduction in crimes such as hijackings.
Rossouw said a more practical and less restrictive approach would have been to lift these restrictions on an area or city basis, and to selectively impose it in high-risk Covid-19 areas.
Another alternative to placing a blanket ban on especially the sale of wine was to control its sale and the quantities served at restaurants or wine farms, he said.
Questions also arose regarding public participation before the alcohol ban was reinstated.
According to him, the minister never gave interested parties such as wine farmers and their workers an opportunity to give their input.
The court papers state that wine farmers and their workers’ jobs were on the line if the ban on wine sales was not overturned.
Rossouw said the continued ban on the sale of wine for on-site consumption on wine farms, restaurants and hotels was irrational. The wine farm industry cannot survive the devastating impact of the ban.
The minister has until the end of this week to file her opposing papers.