The provincial government is also proposing changes in a new policy that is open for comment until the end of November. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) published the Draft Liquor Amendment Bill for comment last month. In its current form, the bill proposes that no liquor licences should be issued to new establishments within 500 metres of places of worship, recreational facilities, treatment centres, residential areas or public institutions. Licences for premises attached to petrol stations and near public transport interchanges will also not be considered.
Other changes include raising the drinking age to 21 and banning advertising that targets under-21s. Trading hours could also be tightened at the discretion of the Liquor Licensing Authority. Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) chief executive officer Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa is concerned about the impact of the proposed changes. “This is going to impact cities. In Cape Town, places are situated close to each other. Whenever a new hotel is built, it is close to a school, church or government building. Does that mean no one in Cape Town can get a new licence? No new restaurants, no new hotels?”
He added that certain sections of the bill were “very vague” and not clarifying these could have a big impact on the industry. He was referring in particular to the proposal that advertisers not target people under 21 and the stricter trading times. “Changing trading hours may kill a business and who will determine whether or not an advertisement is aimed at a 21 year old?” He questioned whether there was the capacity to properly enforce the legal drinking age and said that currently underage drinking is widespread. Despite these concerns, Fedhasa does not condone the abuse of alcohol or underage drinking and takes precautions to ensure responsible trading. He called for an economic impact assessment to gauge how this would affect businesses.
Spokesperson for the DTI, Charles Mnisi, said that an impact assessment report had already shown that the new advertising and branding requirements would result in a loss of advertising revenue. He said that regulatory enforcement would be standardised within national, provincial and local government and there would be coordinated training programmes for liquor inspectors. The bill also proposes improving the capacity of the National Liquor Authority.
The Western Cape government has also published the Alcohol Harms Reduction Policy, which is open for public comment until 30 November 2016. This is aimed at reducing binge and underage drinking. It also supports raising the age limit for alcohol consumption from 18 to 21 years, and proposes measures such a breathalysing pedestrians at road accident hot spots.
Dr Laurine Platzky, deputy director-general for strategic programmes in the Department of the Premier, says that the biggest problem in the Western Cape is the amount of alcohol consumed. This is exacerbated by the amount of underage binge drinkers, with about 35% of learners between grades 8 and 11 binge-drinking. These are people who consume six-to-eight glasses of wine or cans of beer at a time. Gender-based violence, the high number of road accidents and foetal alcohol syndrome are also problems.
» Alcohol is the country’s third biggest cause of premature death and disability.
» Despite the big contribution made by the industry, the government spends a significant amount of resources, especially in the health sector, dealing with alcohol-related harms.
» South Africa has the most alcohol-related deaths, injuries and other ill-effects, with 10 times the global average for male homicides and twice as many road deaths.