Citizen Reporter
3 minute read
17 Apr 2020
4:49 pm

Ramaphosa tells alcohol traders he won’t submit to their demands

Citizen Reporter

The Gauteng Liquor Forum threatened court action should its request be denied, but the president says they should rather apply for financial relief.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation following a special cabinet meeting on matters relating to the coronavirus epidemic, mass celebrations, will be cancelled and schools will be closed until after Easter, 15 March 2020. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

South Africans who waited with bated breath on Friday for news that President Cyril Ramaphosa would respond to the Gauteng Liquor Forum’s call for shebeens and taverns to be allowed to sell alcohol amid the nationwide lockdown may find themselves disappointed.

As widely expected, the president has told them he would not allow the ban on alcohol sales to be lifted, including in shebeens. He instead directed liquor sellers to seek economic relief through programmes offered by government.

In a seven-page letter from the president’s lawyers, the forum was told the reason alcohol sales could not be considered an “essential service” was because there is a link between alcohol and traumatic injury that state hospitals could not afford to be treating during the Covid-19 crisis. They pointed out that tavern owners were among many businesses affected by the shutdown and they could not expect special treatment.

“In the absence of a lockdown, the worst effects of the spread of Covid-19 are likely to be felt in those very sectors of society that you claim to represent – those who live in the poorest conditions … the most vulnerable in society,” the letter continued.

The Gauteng Liquor Forum (GLF), a non-profit organisation of stakeholders representing about 20,000 micro and small businesses, earlier argued in their own letter that the lockdown extension to 30 April would “most likely” ruin their businesses.

They called on the president to relax alcohol restrictions and allow shebeens to operate between 9am and 6pm on weekdays, and close at 1pm on Sundays and public holidays.

“It is also notable that the entire framework for disaster management is not subject to any parliamentary scrutiny and the risk for abuse of power is manifest,” the forum said.

“The total ban on the selling of alcohol is unreasonable and it has no rational connection to the mischief which is sought to be prevented,” added the letter from the forum.

They gave Ramaphosa an ultimatum to respond or face a court challenge. It is now possible that their threatened Constitutional Court case might now go ahead, though it has doubtful prospects of success.

Ramaphosa’s lawyers have denied that the lockdown “and the regulations and/or laws in terms of which it is imposed, are unconstitutional”.

Letter Mabuza Attorneys 17 … by Charles Cilliers on Scribd

ALSO READ: EFF: Tavern owners trying to murder black people with anti-booze-ban court case

While Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in a briefing yesterday that the ban on alcohol sales remained in place, the president was expected to give further clarity on that as per his response to the forum earlier this week.

The president, through the state attorney, had asked the GLF to wait until Friday after the National Command Council, Presidency and other relevant parties had met to discuss government’s economic assistance programme.

“This includes assistance offered to small businesses such as those of your clients and other measures to mitigate the effects of the lockdown extension. We anticipate that the results of these discussions may well have a bearing on the issues raised by your client. Therefore in order to be in a position to respond to your letter fully, we ask that you afford us until close of business day on Friday,” he said.

(Compiled by Vhahangwele Nemakonde and Charles Cilliers)

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