- In court papers, Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma continues to justify the temporary prohibition on alcohol sales.
- This against the backdrop of the government having been advised to lift the ban.
- Dlamini-Zuma noted admissions to emergency rooms dropped during the first ban, freeing up hospital beds and medical staff.
While an announcement from Cyril Ramaphosa moving the country to Level 2 lockdown - and the unbanning of alcohol and cigarettes - appears imminent, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is still justifying the ban in court papers.
The NCCC and Cabinet were advised the number of Covid-19 cases reported daily were on the decline and the economic devastation caused by the prohibition could no longer be justified.
In her answering affidavit, dated 7 August, to the application brought by the Southern Africa Agri Initiative (Saai) and others, Dlamini-Zuma acknowledged the ban was expected to reduce the income of producers, suppliers and retailers.
"Unfortunately, we are not in normal times, and it is imperative that government finds the appropriate balance between the constitutional duty to protect lives, and the need to protect livelihoods across the economy," read her affidavit.
However, she also stated it was expected the prohibition would be temporary.
"There is no desire on the part of government to leave this prohibition in place for longer than it is regarded as necessary."
Dlamini-Zuma said the government had a "duty to all South Africans to support livelihoods and save lives".
"A critical aspect of doing this is to ensure that our healthcare system and healthcare workers remain functional, effective and available.
"The sustainability of the healthcare system is incredibly important because it is required to deal not just with Covid-19 cases, but also with all other medical cases. For that reason, every effort must be made to keep hospital admissions and trauma cases as low as we possibly can."
She added during Level 5, when alcohol was prohibited and a curfew was in place, the overall visits to emergency centres in South Africa dropped from 42 700 per week to approximately 15 000.
"After the initial prohibition on the sale of alcohol was uplifted, with effect from 1 June 2020, a significant increase in alcohol-related trauma cases requiring admissions and treatment in hospitals were reported," read her affidavit.
"It was estimated that approximately 17 100 [50%] of the 34 200 overall number of admissions per week to secondary and tertiary public trauma units across the country are linked to alcohol consumption."
Saai and its co-applicants, which include wine farms and other wine industry bodies, asked the court to declare the regulations prohibiting the sale and transport of wine unlawful, invalid and unconstitutional.
The ban was reinstated on 12 July after sales were allowed from 1 June when the country moved to Level 3.
The Disaster Management Act explicitly gives the government the power to regulate the sale and use of alcohol during a state of disaster, which was declared on 15 March.