Fourth alcohol ban – SAB pursues urgent legal challenge to protect jobs and livelihoods in the sector

The South African Breweries (SAB) is very sensitive to the difficulties and plight faced as a nation in the fight against COVID-19. SAB fully understands the seriousness of this third wave and agrees that lawful and reasonable measures are needed to curb the spread of the pandemic to save both lives and livelihoods.

These measures include earlier curfew times to limit movement, reduced indoor and outdoor capacity at gatherings, heightened law enforcement and the amplification of adherence to nonpharmaceutical interventions. There is no scientific link that the consumption of alcohol raises the risk of contracting COVID-19 especially if alcohol is consumed safely and responsibly in the comfort of one’s home.

SAB regrets government’s unfortunate decision to ban the sale of all alcohol for the fourth time in the last 18 months and is deeply concerned by the continued discrimination of the legal alcohol trade, resulting in a burgeoning illicit industry in the country. The current ban, which is unsubstantiated by robust scientific evidence, has been implemented at a time when the industry was already gearing itself for future stability and was ready to play its part in the country’s
economic recovery.

As an organisation, SAB believes it is left with no other alternative but to defend its rights and take legal action, to protect its business and urgently overturn this decision. This move seeks to gain policy certainty, greater transparency in decision-making for the future sustainability of its business and value chain. This additional challenge does not detract from the first legal challenge instituted by SAB earlier in the year, and that challenge is still in process.

SAB and its industry partners made submissions to the NCCC, but unfortunately the recommendations were not considered and a yet another blanket ban was announced without consultation.

SAB maintains its willingness to partner with government and its peers in the industry who remain committed to supporting the fight against COVID-19. SAB implores government to urgently strengthen the partnership with business to accelerate the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine – protect millions of lives and livelihoods.

In a separate statement the National Liquor Traders (NLT) added its support to SAB saying that it firmly believes in the rights reserved by SAB to seek recourse in the courts to preserve the livelihoods and jobs that they support.

Failure by government to consult with the industry and the unjust bans that we had to endure without any financial support whatsoever to cushion against the blows of the almost 20 weeks’ worth of alcohol bans means that the likes of SAB have to resort to the courts to seek relief on yet another ban that has no basis in science and facts.

We are concerned by the disdain that the government continues to treat the alcohol industry and the lack of support from the Minister of DTIC to supporting the alcohol industry and its value chain that supports over 1 million jobs is equally concerning.

The President needs to intervene to prevent the jobs bloodbath in the alcohol industry. We stand side by
side with SAB and support their right to assert themselves in a court process to seek relief to protect their company.

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