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Significant changes to South African alcohol laws are still on the way, including a drive to raise the drinking age.

Reference: Published by Luke Fraser (BusinessTech), 25 October 2023

The government will review the Liquor Amendment Bill, according to Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu.

Zulu stated during the Bi-Annual Global Alcohol Policy Conference (GAPC) that there was a strong push to enact the Liquor Amendment Bill.

“I hear you, and the message is ‘Pass the Liquor Amendment Bill now.'” [We] take note of what has been given to us here by the Department of Social Development and all other government officials. “This is a positive message, and it tells us that when you stand up to speak to us, we must listen,” Zulu added.

The Department of Trade and Industry first proposed the Bill in 2016, with numerous significant revisions, including:

  • Raising the drinking age to 21 years old;
  • The implementation of a 100-metre radius commerce restriction around educational and religious establishments;
  • Alcohol sales and advertising on social and small media are prohibited.
  • The addition of a new liability clause for alcoholic beverage retailers.

Despite multiple reconsiderations, the Bill has not moved forward to formal introduction.

Due to the detrimental consequences of alcohol during the nation’s Covid-19 shutdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet examined the Draft Liquor Amendment Bill in February 2021, but this appeared to have gone to naught.

Other plan

According to Zulu, drinking has an especially negative impact on the population.

“While we are concerned about the harm that all drugs have on individuals, families and or society as a whole, there is a significant body of evidence from research institutions such as the South African Medical Research Council and Soul City that suggest that alcohol is one of the most abused substances that causes the most harm to the most people in our country,” Zulu said in a statement.

She went on to say that alcohol causes crime, higher mortality rates, automobile accidents, and more gender-based violence.

“In light of these mounting challenges, our people have demanded that the government take the necessary steps to combat the harmful use of alcohol.” “I must admit that this has not been the easiest task,” she remarked.

“Any measures to prevent and reduce alcohol harm has been met with a monumental and well-resourced pushback that seems to put commercial interests before people from the alcohol industry.”

“We saw this when, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government implemented measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, including measures to reduce the impact of alcohol on health-care resources.” Liquor retailers in Limpopo Province have resisted the government’s proposals to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages after midnight.”

Despite these obstacles, the minister stated that Cabinet has authorized the Draft Policy on the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders for public engagement.

The policy examines where the most drug-related harms occur and the best approaches to alleviate them.

She also stated that Cabinet suggested the formation of a special committee of Ministers to ensure cross-government coordination in harm prevention and reduction efforts.

Although the policy has not yet been gazetted, SA Legal Academy believes Zulu is referring to work by the Department of Trade and Industry on developing ‘alcohol consumption legislation’ and amending the Liquor Act, 2003, which was mentioned in May of this year.