Cape Town - Conflicting opinions about the definition of table wine in the Western Cape is leading to a confrontation between the provincial government and certain grocery retailers.
Although the 1989 Liquor Act is still in force in the Western Cape, certain sections of the Western Cape Liquor Act have already been promulgated. Section 1 of the Western Cape act was recently implemented to give police the power to act against those transgressing certain other sections of the new act that previously became operational.
These include punishments for intoxication in public places and the selling of liquor to inebriates on licensed premises.
Both acts stipulate that grocers may sell table wine only.
In terms of the 1989 act, table wine has an alcohol content of not more than 14%.
After Section 1 of the Western Cape act recently came into force, certain large chain stores started to sell fortified wine as well. According to legal opinion they obtained, the definition of table wine has now changed to that of wine as contained in the Liquor Products Act, which includes fortified wine like port and sherry, as well as natural wine with an alcohol content of up to 16.5%.
According to Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism Alan Winde, he has started receiving complaints from the public about chain stores selling stronger liquor.
He is determined to tackle any contravention together with the police, and to remove liquor being sold illegally from the shelves.
Winde said he is disappointed with the irresponsible behaviour of certain large chain stores, which violates the province's liquor laws.
Grocery stores must not take chances for the sake of bigger profits, but remain within the provisions of the old act and not sell wine with an alcohol content exceeding 14%.
When the Western Cape Liquor Act comes into full effect, probably later this year, Winde said it will contain the same definitions as those in the 1989 act with regard to grocers’ liquor licences.
Danie Cronjé, director of liquor law services at legal firm Cluver Markotter, said however that Section 1 of the Western Cape Liquor Act has led to a dispute of legal interpretation because the definition of table wine in the 1989 act has not been expressly retracted.
If the minister should say the definition of table wine will remain unchanged, the Western Cape Liquor Act will have to be amended with public consultation before it can be enforced in its entirety, reckons Cronjé.