Western Cape High Court suspends Kannaland Municipality’s new liquor bylaw pending review

The Western Cape High Court has issued an interim order, suspending the implementation of extended trading hours under the Kannaland Municipality’s newly enacted Liquor bylaw, the Control of Undertakings that Sell Liquor to the Public bylaw, 2024. The suspension comes as a result of mutual agreement between the DG Murray Trust (DGMT) and the Municipality on interim relief. Consequently, the schedule to the previous Liquor bylaw, which governed trading days and hours under the repealed 2013 Liquor bylaw, is reinstated until such time as the Court determines the constitutional validity of the new bylaw.

The contentious 2024 Liquor bylaw allows on-consumption sales of alcohol from 09:00 to 04:00 the following day, seven days a week, irrespective of the zoning of the property or the type of outlet. Off-consumption sales are extended to 09:00 – 20:00, Monday to Saturday, and 09:00 – 13:00 on Sundays. This move directly conflicts with the Western Cape Government’s White Paper on Alcohol Harms Reduction, which advocates for reduced trading hours rather than an extension.

Dr David Harrison, CEO of the DGMT, welcomed the agreed interim order. “We are very pleased that the Kannaland Municipality has not persisted with its opposition to DGMT’s interim interdict application and has agreed to a sensible interim arrangement. Hopefully we will be able to engage with its leadership and agree on a process for proper community and scientific consultation to gauge both the acceptability and likely social and economic impact of the extended trading hours.”

International evidence suggests that the sale of alcohol late into the night correlates with increased incidents of violent crimes, including murders, sexual offenses, and motor vehicle accidents. Research conducted by the DGMT indicates that enforcing a midnight closing time for liquor outlets in the Western Cape could significantly mitigate alcohol-related harm. Conversely, extending trading hours, particularly beyond 2 am, poses substantial risks to community well-being.

DGMT-backed research consistently demonstrates that reducing trading hours correlates with decreased alcohol consumption and related harm, including injuries, diseases, and associated healthcare costs. Conversely, extending trading times exacerbates these issues, posing significant public health risks. The prioritization of economic growth over community well-being and safety by the municipality is deemed misguided by the DGMT, especially given the established link between alcohol consumption and domestic violence.

In addition to legal action against the Kannaland Municipality, the DGMT has been involved in other advocacy efforts. In December 2023, the DGMT was admitted as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the Limpopo Liquor Act matter where Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Sekhukhune Liquor Traders Associated took the provincial government and the Limpopo Liquor Board to court for introducing regulations that restrict alcohol trading hours to midnight. The case is still on-going. In December 2023 as well, DGMT supported the Department of Social Development’s Prevention and Treatment for Substance Use Disorders policy, which proposes stringent policies for the regulation of alcohol and substance use in South Africa.

The DGMT advocates for evidence-based policy reforms endorsed by the World Health Organization, including limiting liquor outlet density, implementing shorter trading hours, and restricting alcohol sales in large containers. This stance aligns with its broader mission to reduce alcohol-related harm and promote community well-being.

The current legal proceedings against the Kannaland Municipality are expected to set a precedent, emphasizing the paramount importance of public health and social well-being over profit considerations. DGMT hopes that the outcome of this case will likely have far-reaching implications for alcohol regulation in South Africa.

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