In their response to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision not to lift the ban on alcohol sales during the Covid-19 lockdown, the Gauteng Liquor Forum has said they have decided not to take government to the Constitutional Court, for now, but they want more clarity on when the shutdown will end.
They have accused the president and his legal team of misunderstanding their grievance, since they had apparently been asking for the right to sell alcohol from their premises that people would then go and drink at their homes.
They furthermore accused Ramaphosa and his government of “blatant racial discrimination” for using “coded language for black people living in the townships where our clients operate”.
Gauteng liquor forum… ????
Who are their lawyers?? pic.twitter.com/VySt5CUPXn
— Mik (@Mikorza) April 18, 2020
The president had told the forum on Friday 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 their letter in response on Saturday, the forum pointed out that they did not believe they would qualify for government assistance.
In a letter from the president’s lawyers, the forum had been 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 is a non-profit organisation of stakeholders representing about 20,000 micro and small businesses. They had 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, which has now been postponed based on when the lockdown will end and, presumably, whether alcohol might be sold in some form or another from May.
You can read their new letter in full below: