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GOVT STICKS TO ALCOHOL BAN DECISION

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MBABANE – Government is not reversing its decision on the alcohol ban.  This is contained in a letter written by the Attorney General, Sifiso Khumalo, in response to a concern raised by the Swaziland National Liquor Association (SNLA) on the ban of liquor sale and distribution, starting tomorrow.


The Prime Minister (PM), Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, last week Tuesday announced that government had decided to stop the wholesale and distribution of liquor with effect from July 1, 2020, seeing that the consumption of alcohol was among the leading causes of the spread of the coronavirus.
Khumalo said Regulation 32 of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 gave the PM and ministers powers to issue guidelines to address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19.


Decisions


“Client (government) instructs that at all material times, government has taken decisions towards combating COVID-19 rationally with guidance from  health experts, professionals and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines,” reads government’s response in part.


The four-page response to Rodrigues & Associates, who is representing SNLA, was also copied to the PM, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo and Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi. Government informed the SNLA that there was no favouritism among businesses and if anything, things being normal, it was government’s wish to have all businesses operate to sustain the economy.


“However, government also has a duty to take into account advices of health experts and professionals to the effect that alcohol is a factor in the spike of this virus, and prohibit the sale of alcohol for the time being to save lives of emaSwati and avoid overwhelming the health system,” reads the letter.

The lawyers representing SNLA had stated that in as much as it was appreciated that government had a fundamental duty to protect and contain the virus, which called for a concerted effort of all citizens including the business sector, it was their contention that their client was of the view that the ban on the sale was being arbitrary and irrationally applied. According to the lawyers, the decision was devoid of holistic considerations and input from SNLA members.


Meanwhile, the AG said government, in particular the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade, remained available for engagements with members of SNLA as it had been the case in the past.


Government, through the AG, further pleaded for unity and cooperation in the fight against what was described as an unprecedented pandemic.
Government said the pandemic had been declared a National Emergency in terms of Section 29 of the Disaster Management Act of 2006.


Constitution


The AG went on to cite Section 37 of the Constitution, which stipulates that; “Nothing contained in or done under the authority of a law shall be held to be inconsistent with or contravention of any provision of Chapter III of the Constitution to the extent the law authorises the taking, during any period of public emergency, of measures that are reasonably justifiable for dealing with the situation that exist during that period.”


The State emphasised that Eswatini was faced with a crisis and a threat to human life following the outbreak of COVID-19.
Government pointed out that it had imposed various measures in an effort to combat the virus and contain its escalation, prohibition of sale of liquor from July 1, 2020 being one of those measures.


“These measures, evidently come with derogations from normalcy – they are, however, permissible in terms of the Constitution of 2005, Disaster Management Act of 2006 and COVID-19 Regulations 2020,” said government. According to government, the decision to suspend the sale of alcohol for two months was rationally related to the purpose of issuing guidelines in terms of Regulation 32 of the COVID-19 regulations.

SNLA lawyer, Jose Rodrigues, said he was still to go through the responses and thereafter, he would be in a position to advise his clients on the way forward.
Meanwhile, members of the public have only today to buy their alcoholic drinks, before the ban kicks in.
(Also see Page 27)

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