Fightback against South Africa’s alcohol and cigarette ban

Restaurants are protesting lockdown restrictions today, which forms part of a fightback against restrictions on cigarettes, alcohol, and other rules.

Restaurants initially planned to block roads with tables and chairs as part of their “Million seats on the streets” protest.

The SA Police Service (SAPS), however, did not grant restaurants permission to embark on this protest action because of traffic disruptions.

Despite this setback, Restaurant Association of South Africa CEO Wendy Alberts said the nationwide protest will go ahead.

Instead of blocking streets outside their restaurants with tables and chairs, the restaurant owners will now stage a “peaceful protest”.

The main issue which restaurants are fighting for is to allow all establishments with a valid liquor license to sell and distribute alcohol.

Alberts said the current restrictions on liquor sales make it impossible for restaurants to make ends meet.

She said the government can impose alcohol restrictions in hotspots with a lot of alcohol-related trauma, instead of a national ban.

Other proposals include a limit of two drinks per meal and that alcohol can only be sold when a person orders a main meal.

Legal action

The Free Market Foundation’s Jacques Jonker said the manner in which the government reinstated the ban on the sale of alcohol disregards the rule of law and the constitution.

Jonker told MyBroadband this approach was problematic, as the government had not gazetted the regulations at this point or immediately following Ramaphosa’s statement.

Various parties within the alcohol industry, ranging from producers to suppliers and distributors, were caught off-guard by the ban – saying that they received no warning of the change beforehand.

Ten Cape Town restaurants are now challenging the ban of the sale of alcohol at restaurants and have lodged a notice of motion in the Western Cape High Court.

These restaurants are also seeking a declaratory order to have the 21:00 curfew extended to 23:00 for patrons.

Various ministers are respondents, including the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Minister of Tourism, and Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition.

The Southern African Agri Initiative (SAAI) is also planning legal action to allow the sale of wine in restaurants.

SAAI CEO Francois Rossouw said they will bring this legal action on behalf of 120 wine farmers which are fighting for survival amidst the alcohol ban.

Distell CEO Richard Rushton said they will “exhaust every possible communication channel” in their bid to get the alcohol ban lifted.

He added that they are also seeking legal advice on the matter as they have not been consulted on the ban, which was unreasonable.

SAB vice-president of corporate affairs, Zoleka Lisa, told Times Live they are engaging with the government, but no decision has been made on legal action yet.

Cigarette ban

The University of Cape Town’s Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products (REEP) has published a new report on smoking behaviour during South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown.

According to the report, current regulations have opened up loopholes for illicit products to be distributed in South Africa.

The ban has also created an environment that will likely encourage smoking once the ban has been lifted.

Being allowed to produce cigarettes for the export market, but not able to sell cigarettes in South Africa, has created a loophole and an incentive to sell illegally in the very lucrative local market, the report said.

The report further found that the average price of cigarettes is nearly 250% higher than pre-lockdown prices, averaging R5.69 per stick. This equates to around R114 for a pack of 20 cigarettes.

Considering the ineffectiveness of the cigarette ban and the negative effect in the industry and taxes, it is not surprising that it is challenged legally.

The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) and British American Tobacco (BATSA) are engaged in legal action against the ban on cigarette sales.

The BATSA case has been pushed back until 5 and 6 August while the FITA appeal against a court’s previous ruling in favour of the government is expected to be ruled on soon.

Restaurant protest photos

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Fightback against South Africa’s alcohol and cigarette ban