South Africa was one of the countries which successfully implemented temporary alcohol sales bans to curb COVID-19 and ease the burden on hospitals and emergency services. The country has so far implemented four such bans with the most recent one in June of last year.
The success of the temporary alcohol sales bans were documented in research analyzing the trauma case volume from Worcester Regional Hospital in South Africa. The results showed that:
- There was a 59 to 69% decrease in trauma volume between the no ban and alcohol sales ban 1 periods.
- Trauma volume dropped again by 39 to 46% with temporary alcohol sales ban 2.
- Partial bans of alcohol sales were not effective in reducing trauma volumes.
Apart from the drop in trauma cases in hospitals, South African police saw a reduction in violence, crime and violent deaths when the temporary alcohol sales bans were introduced.
Similarly, a return of alcohol harm was seen every time the temporary sales bans were lifted. Crime statistics for the first quarter of 2021/2022 showed significant increases in crime alongside lifting of the temporary alcohol sales ban.
As Movendi International reported previously, AB InBev owned beer giant SABMiller launched a legal attack against the South African government to stop these temporary alcohol sales bans, despite their demonstrated efficacy.
What happened with the court case?
- First SABMiller challenged (via an urgent application) the temporary alcohol sales ban implemented in June 2021 with the Western Cape High Court.
- SABMiller’s argument was that Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma did not have the necessary powers to introduce the regulations that would suspend the sale of alcohol and that the move should have been submitted to more scrutiny by parliament.
- The Western Cape High Court dismissed the urgent application. The court ruled that the regulations are not inconsistent with existing legislation. The court also ruled that the minister has the power to suspend the distribution of liquor in a state of disaster.
- Since the Western Cape High Court dismissed the challenge, secondly SABmiller turned to the Supreme Court to appeal the challenge.
- The Supreme Court of South Africa denied SABMiller leave to appeal on the basis that “there is no reasonable prospect of success in an appeal and there is no other compelling reason why an appeal should be heard.”
Meanwhile, in response to this desperate lawsuit, civil society network Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance South Africa (SAAPA SA) has launched a petition to push SAB to withdraw the court challenge. SAAPA SA argues that the lawsuit was a distraction and will result in diverting government resources away from dealing with the virus effectively.
Big Alcohol’s attack against life saving alcohol availability reductions in South Africa
Beer giant SABMiller was not the only alcohol company to launch a legal attack against South Africa’s temporary alcohol sales ban. Big Wine lobby group VinProto went to the Western Cape High Court to seek interim “relief” from the sales ban, placing loss of sales and threats to the wine industry’s profits over and above South African lives.
Not stopping there, Big Alcohol deployed tactics from the Big Tobacco playbook to muddy the science regarding the effectiveness of the temporary alcohol sales bans.