Vinpro would like to see what it calls the responsible reopening of the legal wine trade following a risk-adjusted approach that differentiates between provinces.
- Wine industry association Vinpro wants an urgent injunction to allow the government of the Western Cape to decide the need for alcohol bans.
- The Western Cape Supreme Court heard the urgent request on Wednesday.
- Vinpro argued that hospital capacity and the stage of the third phase of the coronavirus in the Western Cape should be taken into account – rather than the national state of affairs.
The ruling was reserved on Wednesday in a case in which Vinpro, a wine industry body, sought an urgent injunction to allow the Western Cape government to decide the need for a ban on the sale of alcohol in the province.
Vinpro wants a provincial-level ban on the sale of spirits, based on the local risk of Covid-19.
Vinpro likened the imposition of a nationwide general sales ban — aimed at preserving capacity in hospitals — to turning off the lights in an entire house when it might only be needed in one or two rooms.
It also wants the sale of spirits outside and on-site for consumption in the Western Cape, bringing the legal wine trade back into business.
“Instead of turning off the lights of an entire house, you look at hospital capacity on a provincial basis.
“The government’s general ban approach would have made sense if South Africa had only one major hospital, but we know that hospitals are scattered across and the pandemic peaks at different times in different provinces. The government has also not transferred patients between provinces.” , lawyer Johan de Waal, SC, pleaded on behalf of Vinpro.
But in opposing Vinpro’s request for an urgent ban, attorney Nazreen Bawa, SC, argued on behalf of the government that SA is actually more like an open house.
Bawa said none of the reports provided to the national government suggested a provincial approach to dealing with alcohol sales bans.
“The courts are unanimous that we are dealing with an exceptional context in which drastic measures had to be imposed. I am not funny about the difficulties facing the wine industry. The government is aware of the hardships facing SA , not because of lockdown measures, but because of the pandemic. Those measures are intended to balance lives and livelihoods,” Bawa said.
Edge of a cliff
Vinpro represents approximately 2,600 South African wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders. If successful, Vinpro intends to seek similar provisional measures for other provinces as well.
The request of the main court in the Vinpro case will be heard in full by the Western Cape Supreme Court from 23 to 26 August 2021.
According to Vinpro, the wine industry is on the edge of a cliff after revenue streams have been cut intermittently for the past 16 months due to five Covid-19 bans on alcohol sales in disasters, including the most recent, which was introduced on June 28. .
It says many wine and tourism businesses face potential closures, with many jobs at stake, while the illegal trade is thriving.
Vinpro further believes the matter is urgent as companies face imminent closure. De Waal said a survey of the wine industry found that about 13% of respondents indicated that if domestic alcohol sales are not allowed until early August, there is a high risk that their business will have to close. Of the black entrepreneurs in the wine industry, 36% of respondents said there is such a high risk that they will have to close their business.
If Vinpro has to wait for the main case to be dealt with on August 23, 37% of respondents to the survey (68% of black respondents) indicate that their wine company is at high risk of closing, according to De Waal.
Furthermore, it is estimated that about 12.5% of the working population in the wine industry has already lost their jobs, mostly in rural areas where there is often no work for them other than on wine farms.
Judge Noluthando Nziweni reserved a ruling in the urgent request but said she understood the urgency of the case and would try to expedite the ruling.