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There will soon be new alcohol laws in South Africa.

Reference: Published by GroundUp, 18 October 2022


According to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, information regarding alcohol abuse acquired during the Covid lockout may lead to more changes to the Liquor Amendment Bill. Since 2018, the Bill has been on hold.

By tightening alcohol regulations, regulating alcohol advertising, and controlling where alcohol is distributed, the Bill intends to alter the National Liquor Act of 2003.

The Liquor Amendment Bill may undergo more amendments as a result of information regarding alcohol abuse acquired during the Covid shutdown, according to the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition. A hold has been placed on the Bill since 2018.

The National Liquor Act of 2003 will be changed by the proposed legislation, which will impose stricter guidelines on alcohol advertising, sales locations, and consumption limits.

The Department is reviewing the Bill, according to spokeswoman Bongani Lukhele.

According to Lukhele, “During the Covid-19 pandemic, it became more evident that the problem of alcohol consumption is fairly large in South Africa and requires more coordinated measures. The Bill may not address the extent of the problem as the problem requires a concerted effort in government,” she added.

He declared that the department would bring the bill back before Parliament. According to Lukhele, legislation to address alcohol usage must also address behavior, health, and educational challenges.

Lukhele continued, “Provincial laws must also be examined as it directly affects the retail trade.”

Lobbying organizations are growing agitated as the bill’s implementation is delayed.

According to Maurice Smithers, director of the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance in South Africa, the Liquor Act was evaluated in 2015 and determined to be insufficient and incompatible with the Global Strategy of the World Health Organization to prevent hazardous alcohol use.

Three objectives are prioritized by the Global Strategy: lowering alcohol availability, raising its price, and restricting or outlawing marketing.

The Liquor Bill, which was created in 2016, was modified to include the following amendments as a result:

  • Limiting alcohol advertising on public platforms;
  • Bringing the drinking age up to 21 years old;
  • Restricting the distribution and production of alcohol during certain trading days and hours;
  • Making alcohol distributors and producers accountable for any damage caused by rules that have been broken.

Additionally, the revisions call for a ban on alcohol advertisements during specific hours on radio and television, as well as on billboards that are less than 100 meters from intersections, street corners, and traffic circles.

In 2016, the Cabinet authorized the measure for public discussion.

According to Smithers, if the Bill and other laws were not implemented, the socio-economic and health issues related to alcohol would get worse over time.

The state will continue to be burdened and resources will be diverted from other service areas due to the overall cost of such harm to society. The fact that gas stations are currently applying for licenses, something they would not be able to do if the bill were passed, is one of the concrete effects.

According to Smithers, if the law were to pass, “the present plans in the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, which will allow schools to have alcohol at schools and at school functions off school grounds for fund-raising purposes, would likewise not be authorized.”

The department supports a zero tolerance policy for alcohol use in schools, according to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, although schools do sell alcohol at fund-raising events and do rent out venues for gatherings where alcohol is used. The Basic Education Laws Amendment Act’s provisions, according to her, are merely meant to control this.

Stronger laws are required, according to Onesisa Mtwa, innovation manager at the DG Murray Trust, to address and curtail unhealthy patterns of consumption like bingeing and heavy drinking.

According to the WHO’s 2018 Global Survey on Alcohol and Health, South African drinkers over the age of 15 consumed an average of 64.6 grams of pure alcohol daily in 2016.

The research also revealed that South African drinkers over 15 consumed 29.9 liters of pure alcohol annually, ranking third in Africa.

According to Mtwa, who cited a 2017 impact research by the economics-based consulting firm Genesis Analytics, the Bill could lower alcohol consumption by 3.2% to 7.4%, which would save public health expenses by R1.9 billion annually.

The impact study indicated that South Africa’s gross domestic product would decline by less than 1%, despite the sector’s allegations that the Bill will ruin the industry, according to Mtwa.

Alcohol bans during Covid were substantially connected with a significant decrease in unnatural deaths, according to a study by the Medical Research Council and the University of Cape Town (murders, vehicle collisions, suicides and accidents).

Between the end of December 2019 and the end of April 2021, during the nationwide lockdown, researchers examined death statistics during alcohol restrictions and curfews. A full alcohol ban reduced unnatural deaths by 42 per day under a 4- to 7-hour curfew and by 74 per day under a strict lockdown.

Mtwa stated that “substantial” provincial and national cooperation will be required to carry out the bill.

“Some regulatory areas, such retail sales and liquor licenses, are under the purview of the provinces, whereas liability concerns, manufacturers, and the legal drinking age would be under the purview of the federal government. This demonstrates the need for a comprehensive government strategy to lessen alcohol-related harm, she continues.

Despite not being a panacea, according to Smithers, the law would show society that the government is committed to addressing the problem of alcohol-related harm.

Although it won’t produce a perfect act, the bill is a step in the right direction, he said.