Pretoria - The chaos at the Gauteng Liquor Board would become worse if an urgent application for the setting aside of a moratorium on issuing licences were to be granted.
The applicants greeted the decision by Judge Elias Matojane with shock and disbelief.
According to the judge, if the application were allowed the applicants would suffer the same damage or losses they would suffer through the normal procedures.
On the one hand, Matojane said the issue could not be considered urgent because the circumstances of the case did not justify it. But in almost the same breath he said that the applicants had had no option but to approach the court in the manner they had.
The application arose following a decision by Gauteng MEC for economic development to place a moratorium on the issuing of liquor licences.
This included the acceptance or consideration of new liquor licences, applications for occasional permits and applications for licence transfers.
The moratorium is in force for six months from August 8.
Gilbert Marcus SC, acting on behalf of the MEC, argued that there was an lack of urgency. The applicants had had four weeks before the moratorium took effect.
Matojane disagreed with this argument.
He said that to apply for a licence was a time-consuming process that, for instance, required a tax clearance certificate as well as police clearance, which takes close on eight weeks to obtain.
Against this background he reckoned the applicants had had no option but to approach the court in the way they had.
But, he added, the applicants needed to show that they would suffer real loss if required to subject themselves to normal court processes.
The applicants also needed to show that deviation from the prescribed time constraints would not be prejudicial to the liquor board.
In his view it was clear, even from the applicants' perspective, that the system was dysfunctional. If the urgent application were allowed, it would aggravate the “already malfunctioning system” without affording the applicants immediate relief.
Werner Lüderitz SC argued on behalf of the applicants that the MEC did not have the authority to suspend the Gauteng Liquor Act unilaterally.
He claimed that the moratorium amounted to suspension of the act – whether temporary or only for certain categories of licences.
This was illegal.
Lüderitz said the MEC was fully aware of the negative consequences for the businesses and the economy in general, yet she had gone ahead with the moratorium.
“If people have to close their restaurants, liquidate their businesses and discharge people, so be it,” he said.
For business news in Afrikaans, go to www.sake24.com.