Nonprofit wine producers organisation Vinpro reports that its court case, contesting the approach followed by government towards liquor ban restrictions within the Disaster Management Act, is set for hearing in the Western Cape High Court from August 23 to 26.
Vinpro launched its legal application during the second wave of infections in January this year and has now also approached the court to include evidence for the way in which the blanket liquor ban “missed its purpose” during the third wave, the organisation states.
Three particular points will be argued in court, including Vinpro’s structure of government argument, an interim application asking to take evidence regarding the third wave into account and the issue of mootness since the ban has been partially lifted.
Vinpro MD Rico Basson says that, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Vinpro has argued that the provincial governments, not national government, should decide whether or not to impose liquor restrictions.
This would enable laws to be instated according to provincial circumstances, including the need to preserve capacity in trauma units in hospitals in certain provinces, he says. “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 adds that while Vinpro has challenged national government’s decision, by way of an urgent interdict application and hearing on July 21, the matter was subsequently rendered 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.”
Vinpro says national government’s respondents to the court case have “vehemently opposed” the application to introduce such further evidence.
“This opposition is mainly based on their argument that Vinpro’s application is moot, since the ban has been lifted,” Vinpro says in a statement.
However, Basson says that, based on national government’s recently past actions, in which several blanket bans have been imposed, a fourth wave of infections, which Vinpro says is estimated to hit South Africa in December, will mean the issue is “most certainly not moot”.
He points out that wine is a product of agriculture, with 80 183 people working at farm- and cellar-level, and 188 913 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 is a livelihood. It is our responsibility to make sure we save this industry for future generations,” concludes Basson.