DA rethinks Sunday liquor ban‚ seeks to amend by-law

By Bekezela Phakathi

The decision to reconsider the ban of liquor sales on Sundays in Cape Town had nothing to do with politics or "big business"‚ the Democratic Alliance (DA) says.

The party submitted an urgent motion on Wednesday to amend Cape Town’s Liquor Trading Days and Hours by-law banning liquor sales on Sundays‚ saying "new information" that had come to light showed the ban would have dire consequences on businesses.

There were fears that banning liquor sales on Sundays would fuel illegal trade and hit traders hard. According to the South African Liquor Traders Association‚ liquor traders made between 20% and 30% of their profits on Sundays.

The by-law — which will come into effect on Monday next week — proposes that liquor stores not be allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays‚ or after 6pm from Monday to Saturday. Clubs‚ hotels and casinos‚ however‚ can extend their cut-off time to sell liquor from 2am to 4am‚ on condition they apply for an exemption. Following the tabling of the motion to amend the clause that bans Sunday liquor sales‚ stores‚ bars and restaurants that have licenses to trade on Sundays will be allowed to trade as normal.

The amendment will be discussed by the economic‚ environmental and spatial planning committee next week‚ followed by another round of public consultations‚ which could take several months.

Mayoral committee member for economic‚ environmental and spatial planning Garreth Bloor said on Thursday that new information had come to light that the Sunday ban could have serious consequences for businesses and efforts to create employment. "We have had to take all this into account"‚ despite the by-law having gone through rounds of public participation.

"It is absolute nonsense to say that we are under pressure from big business ... we believe in a free enterprise economy ... there has been not a single corporate that has had an input in this‚" Mr Bloor said. He said the bulk of the contentious by-law will remain as is‚ and only the clause on the Sunday ban will be reviewed.

Commenting on the apparent about-turn by the DA‚ the African National Congress (ANC)‚ said the decision was a "political ploy by the DA after in realised that big business‚ its key constituency" would be the hardest hit.

ANC chief whip in council Xolani Sotashe said on Thursday the decision to submit a last-minute motion was an abuse of power by the DA in a bid to score political points.

"They have realised that the ban will affect big business which is their key constituency...it is an abuse of power and manipulation of processes‚" Mr Sotashe said.

"Where was big business the during the public participation process...this decision (to relook Sunday liquor sales) is not in the best interest of emerging businesses‚" he said.

Mr Sotashe said the ANC generally supported the by-law because alcohol abuse was a "serious problem in our communities".

South African Liquor Traders Association president Saint Madlala welcomed the decision on Thursday but "they should not keep us in suspense‚ they should just scrap the whole idea‚" he said.

Mr Madlala said a ban on Sunday liquor sales would hurt the industry and lead to "serious job losses".

"We are happy that those responsible for the idea (to ban Sunday liquor sales) are coming to their senses‚" he said.

On the ANC’s view that the decision to review the proposed Sunday ban was a political ploy‚ Mr Madlala said "we do not want to be used as political pawns. It is not fair for us to be used in the battle for votes".