BOFEPUSU, BFTU support KBL lawsuit against Gov’t
Did President Masisi act lawfully when he decreed wholesale ban on the sale of alcohol in Botswana?
Among other reasons cited by KBL for taking the matter to court is the fact that government’s wholesale ban is improper and not premised on any clear and objective evidence demonstrating a casual link between the ban on alcohol and the reduction of positive COVID- 19 cases
Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Unions and Botswana Federation of Trade Unions say they support Kgalagadi Breweries Limited’s suit against government over the ban of alcohol sale and consumption.
KBL is challenging the government’s latest ban on alcohol sales, arguing that at least 50 000 direct jobs and 200 000 livelihoods in the alcohol value chain are threatened.
According to court papers dated 6 July 2021, KBL has cited President Mokgweetsi Masisi alongside the Attorney General ( AG) and the Director of Health Services in a case that is expected to be heard before Justice Tshepo Motswagole. In the papers, KBL seeks the court to declare “unlawful and invalid as well as to review and set aside Government notice No. 362 of 2021 issued in terms of the Emergency Powers Act ( CAP 22: 04) as read with the emergency powers ( Covid- 19) regulations, 2020 and published by the Director of Health Services”. KBL further asks the court to, in the meantime pending the final determination of the relief sought, to suspend the operation of the Government notice which has effectively suspended the sale of alcohol. BFTU Secretary General Busang Butale said they have been following and are gravely concerned by the continued restrictions imposed by government on the sale of liquor.
He said this is so in light of the latest reports of workers losing jobs across the value chain in the liquor industry. “While we share government’s concern for the spread of the corona virus, we sincerely hold the view that a unilateral decision by government on a matter that hinges so hugely on the national economy cannot be acceptable under any circumstances. “Among other reasons cited by KBL for taking the matter to court is the fact that government’s wholesale ban is improper and not premised on any clear and objective evidence demonstrating a casual link between the ban on alcohol and the reduction of positive COVID- 19 cases”, Butale posited. He said that a preliminary investigation conducted with the Institute of Labour and Employment ( ILES) indicates that a dark cloud is hovering over the heads of at least 50 000 employees and approximately 200 000 livelihoods are facing the risk of starvation on account of government’s unilateral move. Butale stated that they admit that there seems to be a correlation between the spread of the virus and the consumption of alcoholic beverages. He said however, it should be noted that the COVID- 19 pandemic has impacted different sectors of the economy in many and different ways “with the hardest hit sectors including among others the tourism and the liquor industry”. According to Butale, it is therefore critical that the authorities avoid throwing out the baby with the bath water in an attempt to single out alcohol as the culprit in the spread of the corona virus.
The brewer is 49.9 percent owned by Sechaba Holdings Limited, which in turn is owned about 19 percent by the Botswana Development Corporation, a government’s investment agency that promotes economic diversification. The Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund, the main retirement fund for civil servants, has about 25 percent equity in Sechaba. KBL argues among other points raised in their affidavit that the President has never shared any clear, substantive and compelling reasons for the current and previous alcohol bans. “The consequence is that KBL has been unable to scrutinise and engage with the Government’s true basis and rationale for imposing the ban”. Contrary to government’s contention that the prohibition of sale of alcohol was imposed on account of evidence that consumption of alcohol increases the risks posed by Covid- 19 due to its negative effects on adherence to Covid- 19 protocols with reference made to ‘ evidence submitted’ to President Masisi by the Director of Health Services, KBL argues that no such evidence has been put forward.
Brenno Kliger Diaz, the KBL Managing Director stated in his founding affidavit that “the crux of this application is whether he, President acted lawfully when he issued Government notice No. 362 of 2021 issued in terms of the emergency powers act ( CAP 22: 04) as read with the emergency powers ( Covid- 19) regulations, 2020 decreeing a wholesale ban on the sale of alcohol in Botswana. This application is brought to challenge the lawfulness and validity of impugned notice… the effect of this notice is to impose a total ban on liquor sales, including products manufactured and distributed by KBL”.