The alcohol industry is fighting tooth and nail for its survival, going all out to ensure that Covid-19 lockdown regulations do not lead to more profit and job losses. While the Western Cape High Court has dismissed an application by the wine producers’ organisation Vinpro challenging national liquor bans, it has told Vutivi News that it will go to court on an urgent basis if deemed necessary.
This follows the Beer Association of SA (Basa) going to court last week to try and set aside alcohol bans which they labelled as irrational and invalid. Both organisations along with SMMEs are worried that the government will implement another ban during the festive season to keep infection levels down. Vinpro’s managing director Rico Basson said the organisation was still considering whether to appeal the ruling.
The court found that the national government’s regulations relating to the sale of alcohol were reasonably necessary and incidental to the effective exercise of its powers relating to disaster management of the Covid-19 pandemic. While the government has welcomed the ruling, Vinpro said it was concerned about the state’s “blunt approach, unwillingness to consult and lack of transparency regarding the empirical data used in decision making, has caused irreversible damage to the wine and tourism industry”.
“The industry has not only lost more than R10 billion in sales revenue, but it has also seen significant job losses and suffered international reputational damage,” said Basson. “We want to confirm that the industry continues to work closely with role players on various levels to help government make informed, fact-based decisions with regard to liquor trade, while our businesses also have all the necessary measures in place to keep our employees, clients and visitors safe.”
Basa has also accused the government of not providing evidence to support its decisions to impose the previous bans it imposed. It slammed the state for failing to consider the ravaging impact of the bans on the sector. Small and large businesses are worried about what course of action the state will take to deal with the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections.
While the government has not resorted to its initial hard lockdown since the pandemic hit South Africa’s shores in March last year, the alcohol and tourism sectors were amongst the hardest hit as they were the last to open, and often work hand in hand. The tourism industry, which was hoping to pick up during the holidays, is already facing new hardships, with several countries closing their borders to South Africa after it reported a new variant of the virus.