The alcohol ban is said to have cost the country R65 billion. Picture: John Hogg
The alcohol ban is said to have cost the country R65 billion. Picture: John Hogg

Vinpro set to fight government on alcohol ban in upcoming court case

By Dieketseng Maleke Time of article published Aug 23, 2021

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A COURT case launched by Vinpro — which represents about 2 600 South African wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders — will be heard in the Western Cape High Court from August 23 to 26.

Vinpro took the government to court to contest its liquor ban during the second wave of Covid-19 in January. The ban is said to have cost the country R65 billion.

In a statement, the organisation said: “Despite all of the setbacks the South African wine industry has had to endure over the past 17 months, Vinpro has not backed down from the fight to fully reopen and rebuild the industry.”

The organisation said three points would be argued in the hearing. “The three points are Vinpro’s structure of government argument, an interim application asking to take evidence regarding the third wave into account, as well as the issue of mootness, since the ban has been partially lifted,” it said.

Vinpro managing director Rico Basson said: “Since the start of this pandemic, we have argued that the provinces, not national government, should decide whether or not to impose liquor restrictions and should do so regarding provincial circumstances, including the need to preserve capacity in trauma units in hospitals in the province,” he said.

“We know provinces are affected differently by the pandemic; therefore, we believe a differentiated approach in handling the crisis is needed to limit the economic impact of a lockdown,” Basson said.

He said while Vinpro had challenged the government’s decision by launching an urgent interdict application and hearing on July 21, the matter was deemed academic, because the ban was partially lifted four days later.

“In an interim application, we now ask that this evidence should also be taken into account,” he said.

According to Basson, the government’s respondents have vehemently opposed the application to introduce such evidence.

“This opposition is mainly based on their argument that Vinpro’s application is moot, since the ban has been lifted. However, we have seen how the government has dealt with the previous liquor bans. A blanket ban is imposed repeatedly, and with a fourth wave likely to hit the country in December, this issue most certainly is not moot,” he said.

Basson said the wine industry was part of the agriculture and tourism sectors, and the industry supported 80 183 people working at farm level and 228 053 people working further down the wine value chain.

“This industry has built a strong brand reputation as a unique asset for the country. The South African wine industry is more than a drink; it’s a livelihood. And it is our responsibility to make sure we save this industry for future generations,” Basson said.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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