By NOKUZOLA THWALA | 2020-06-30
BOOZERS were dealt a heavy blow yesterday when Government insisted that the ban by the Prime Minister of the sale of liquor and distribution still stands.
This was asserted by the Attorney General (AG) Sifiso Mashampu Khumalo yesterday, acting on behalf of the Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini and Eswatini Government.
The AG was responding to a call by the Swaziland National Liquor Association (SNLA) through their lawyers; Rodriques and Associates, requesting government to either lift the ban or consult with them to forge a way forward.
The PM announced the ban a week ago issuing guidelines to address, prevent and combat the spread of the coronavirus which was declared a National Emergency in the country in terms of Section 29 of the Disaster Management Act of 2006.
Khumalo affirmed that the PM and his ministers have power vested upon them according to Regulation 32 of the Coronavirus Regulations Act of 2020.
He said the issuance of these guidelines is meant to provide flexibility in regulating and combating the volatile COVID-19 monster with guidance from health experts, professionals and the World Health Organization guidelines.
“According to our client (government), the need to balance the lives of Emaswati and ensuring that the economy does not collapse cannot be over emphasised. This has been the most difficult exercise world over. It is our client’s instructions that there is no favouritism amongst businesses.
It is our client’s wish to have all businesses operate to sustain the economy,” the AG alluded.
However, he said government has the duty to take into account advice from health experts and professionals to the effect that alcohol is a factor in the increase of the virus statistics thus prohibiting the sale of alcohol for a period not exceeding two months to save the lives of Emaswati and avoid crushing the health system.
Furthermore, he said the ban is related to the purpose of issuing guidelines in terms of Regulation 32 as government noted that some of the cluster infections were a result of house parties where alcohol was consumed, therefore, imposed various measures in an effort to combat the virus and contain its escalation.
“We have no intention to litigate by this correspondence. however, it is important to indicate that courts have previously held that decisions must be rationally related to the purpose for which the power was given in order to pass the arbitrariness enquiry.
Such a decision cannot be said to be arbitrary. The right to administrative justice (Section 33) of the Constitution and the right to carry on lawful trade or business (Section 32 of the Constitution) outlined in paragraph 12 of your letter does not fall under the derogations that are prohibited in terms of the Constitution,” averred the AG.
Adding, he disclosed that government in particular the ministry of commerce, industry and trade was available for engagement with SNLA. Government also pleaded for unity and cooperation in the fight against COVID-19.
In its letter to the prime minister, the SNLA believes that as much as government has a fundamental duty to protect and contain the virus which calls for a concerted effort of all citizens including the business sector and industry in general to join hands in the in the containment of the virus, it is, however, their view that the total ban on sales is being arbitrary and irrationally applied.
This is believed to be so because the members of the association are said to have been sidelined when the decision was taken.
SNLA argues that the wholesale and distribution of alcohol has been permitted in its limited form to operate for one-week , whereas there are other factors and considerations relating to the ease of restrictions relating to opening of the economy that have contributed to the increase of COVID-19 cases before opening of the sale or distribution of alcohol.
The association states that under the strict protocols, licenced, legitimate businesses outlets are being arbitrarily punished at the expense of their livelihood and livelihoods of their approximately 14 800 breadwinners.
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