• The regulations would introduce extraordinary measures into our “day to day” legal framework
• They are based on outdated science not applicable for the current pandemic
• The regulations are not conducive for economic recovery and growth
The South African Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA) welcomed the decision by Government to lift the National State of Disaster that was imposed two years ago on 27 March 2020.
However, SALBA is concerned that the government’s proposed alternative to deal with the pandemic through the regulations under the National Health Act of 2003 will introduce extraordinary measures taken under the State of Disaster into the “day to day” legal framework.
SALBA has made a formal submission to the Minister of Health on the regulations that are currently open for public consultation.
“The draft regulations attempt to replace the extraordinary regulations imposed by the State of Disaster (SOD) with legislation that is not applicable or appropriate to the ordinary day-to-day life in a post-pandemic world,” said SALBA CEO Kurt Moore.
Moore said that the regulations would afford a single Minister the right to limit the rights and freedoms of South African citizens and corporates without the full oversight of Parliament and further consultation with its citizens. The regulations grant the Minister of Health overreaching powers not envisaged in the National Health Act.
Moore said there is no reason given for the regulations to include sale, dispensing and consumption of alcohol as information that the Minister of Health may share with his Cabinet colleagues for purposes of the disease control.
The regulation of the sale of alcohol to consumers is a provincial competency that was suspended only under the National Disaster Act. SALBA believes that any interference in this area by the Health Minister or any member of the National Cabinet would be unconstitutional.
“The amendments provide no clarity on why the Minister of Heath requires regulations to share any information with his Cabinet colleagues, nor is there an indication of what purpose such information would be used for,” added Moore.
SALBA stated that the proposed regulations were not based on solid science. Although intended to cater to all notifiable diseases, they were drafted using outdated science and may not apply to the next pandemic. A scientist collective comprising Marc Mendelson, Shabir A Madhi, Jeremy Nel, Glenda Gray, Regina Osih and Francois Venter contended that the draft regulations were “inconsistent, incoherent, and illogical… firmly rooted in 2020 when knowledge about COVID-19 was more rudimentary”.
The scientists collective stated, “[the regulations are] not conducive for economic recovery and inappropriate to continue pursuing policies and imposing regulations aimed to prevent SARS-Cov-2 infections, as opposed to primarily focusing on enhancing population immunity through vaccination to prevent severe disease and death from Covid-19”.
SALBA expressed deep concern that the amendments would hold back the economic recovery and stifle growth.
“The State of Disaster’s lockdowns and restrictions on business activity caused irreparable damage to the economy. Businesses are struggling to recover from the previous restrictions, which seriously jeopardise viability and jobs. The initial liquor ban resulted in 118,435 jobs losses across the alcohol value chain, while the cumulative impact of the initial ban and second ban resulted in more than 165,000 jobs losses,” said Moore.
The sector lost at least 23 weeks (161 days) of trade between 26 March 2020 and 25 July 2021. This cost the country’s GDP an estimated R64.8bn (1.3% of GDP), resulting in a tax revenue loss (excluding excise) of R 36.4 billion (2.8% of tax revenue) and direct excise revenue loss of R10.9 billion (19.6% of excise).
“The industry remains committed to playing a significant role in the nation’s economic recovery, alleviating poverty through job creation and encouraging business expansion. But we cannot do so if we are arbitrarily prevented from trading. Unfortunately, these amendments could result again in restrictions on our sector without proper consultation. Moreover, they will have the unintended consequences, which we have highlighted throughout the pandemic, that it results in jobs losses, losses to the fiscus and an increase in the illicit trade of alcohol,” said Moore.