The wine industry body Vinpro will today finally meet government in court in what promises to be a dramatic showdown over a controversial Covid-19 ban on alcohol sales.
The current level 4 lockdown restrictions is the fourth time in 18 months that the National Coronavirus Command Council has banned alcohol sales as part of measures to try and curb the Covid-19 spread.
While some experts believe that this is a necessary step to ease pressure on healthcare systems during the pandemic, it has been a severe blow to the alcohol industry.
Now, after an initial delay, Vinpro’s urgent interim interdict application to first lift the ban on wine sales in the Western Cape will be heard in the Cape High Court today.
If this succeeds, premier Alan Winde will have the power to overrule the national booze sales ban, giving residents of this province the right to buy and consume alcohol, also at restaurants and wine farms.
Vinpro is hopeful that, thereafter, it will also approach the court to seek similar relief for other provinces. “We also remain committed to seeing through our main court application that is set down for hearing … before a full bench from 23 to 26 August 2021,” confirms managing director Rico Basson.
Time to rebuild
“Many legal, tax-paying wine and tourism businesses, especially smaller companies who do their part to keep the economy afloat, are facing potential closures, leaving thousands of employees struggling to feed their families.
This, while illicit trade continues to flourish, including the looting of various liquor traders and distributors last week, says Basson. Urgent intervention are needed to rebuild the alcohol sector.
“These interventions include the responsible reopening of the legal wine trade according to a risk-adjusted approach which differentiates between provinces.
“Law and order needs to prevail with regard to the abuse [or] misuse of alcohol, including illicit trade, as well as the enforcement of regulations in place and financial relief and tangible support from government is crucial to help rebuild this sector.”
Vinpro furthermore proposes a “partnership model” with government. This, believes Basson, will “ensure a targeted approach towards harm reduction and behavioural change.”
Basson adds that national government, however, has not been forthcoming with assistance and consultation. This forces the wine industry body to persue legal action in a bid to prevent further business closure and job loss.