Lockdown | EFF enters brewing alcohol ban fray, sends legal letter to Cyril Ramaphosa

2020-04-14 09:29

The EFF has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa over a Gauteng Liquor Forum threat to go to the Constitutional Court if lockdown regulations currently in effect continue to prohibit the sale of alcohol.

The forum, which claims to represent 20 000 liquor businesses, made the threat over the weekend.

READ | Forum threatens to take ban of alcohol sales to Constitutional Court

Last month, the president announced a 21-day national lockdown as part of the government's bid to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus. It has since been extended by two weeks until the end of April.

Several liquor stores have been looted since the lockdown came into effect.

READ MORE | More liquor looting as 3 arrested in Stellenbosch

On Monday evening, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced that there were 2 272 positive cases in South Africa so far and 27 deaths.

By Tuesday morning, about 1.9 million people were infected globally.

Public consultations

The forum, which gave the president until Tuesday to amend the regulations, said its members' businesses were being "crippled" by the ban and suggested that should be allowed to operate for limited hours. Over the past week, liquor outlets in different parts of the country were looted.

In a letter to the Presidency, written by law firm Ian Levitt Attorneys, the EFF expressed its "disagreement" with the liquor forum and has asked to make representations in the matter.

The party, which cited the behaviour of alcohol consumers as concerning, said no public consultations had gone into deciding where restrictions on the sale of alcohol should be amended.

"It is not in the public interest to lift the ban at this stage," lawyer Ian Levitt said on behalf of the red berets.

"The EFF believes that the health rights of South Africans cannot simply be sacrificed at the altar of commercial interests of the alcohol distributors," he continued.

The party said it was concerned that the removal, amendment or dismissal of the regulations and operation of shebeens and taverns would eliminate the purpose of the national lockdown.

"Alcohol consumers will be entitled to 'gather', buy and consume alcohol, and the risk of spread of the virus will exacerbate tenfold. It will also be difficult to enforce the lockdown when people have consumed alcohol," the letter read.

It also cited a lack of fairness to other small businesses which would remain unable to operate during the lockdown which are also struggling.

"They are not clamouring for the lifting of the lockdown, presumably because they accept the need for sacrifices to be made. If the government is concerned about the effect of the ban on the interests of small businesses," wrote the EFF's lawyer.

The party warned that the relaxation of this particular regulation could result in a "Pandora's box" being opened, with other small non-essential businesses seeking the same relief.

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