The COVID-19 pandemic is a national disaster – and so it must be navigated at national level, the Western Cape High Court heard this week, in the case brought by wine producers' organisation Vinpro. It wants the court to rule that alcohol sales bans can be decided at provincial level, reports Fin24.
Earlier, the court heard arguments from the Western Cape Government's legal team, which agrees with Vinpro. It argued that declaring a national disaster does not give national government a licence to “hollow out” provincial government powers. But legal representatives for national government argue that national government consulted extensively with provincial governments and took a holistic approach to implementing liquor sales bans.
“In response to the pandemic, government had to take a holistic look. The presidential co-ordination council plays pivotal role and it includes consulting with the premiers of the provinces. Furthermore, there is no dispute about the impact of alcohol-related incidents on health services,” said Advocate Nazreen Bawa SC. Bawa said national government relied on “comprehensive” information before making a decision. “It is not based on a peak, but on the availability of health services and the ability to make those available.”
Bawa said when previous national alcohol sales bans were implemented, government had concluded that provincial differentiation was not merited. It was also argued that Vinpro's case has become moot, because its primary relief relates to regulations repealed more than six months ago. The court previously found that the matter of interim relief was rendered moot due to the national ban on liquor sales being lifted. But because the provincial government foresees that more stringent restrictions – including alcohol-related ones – might be required in the near future again, it believes that a ruling is crucial.
Fin24 article – Liquor sales ban: national government must manage a national disaster, court hears (Open access)
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