Push to Improve Consuming Age in South Africa: Report

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet is currently reviewing the bill to amend alcohol in response to the harmful effects of alcohol seen during the South Africa lockdown. TimesLive Reports.

The bill, which was first discussed in 2016, proposes a number of far-reaching changes, including:

  • Increase of drinking age to 21 years;
  • Introduction of a radius limitation of 100 meters for trade with educational institutions and religious institutions;
  • Ban on alcohol sales and advertising on social and small media;
  • The introduction of a new liability clause for alcohol sellers.

The move was supported by Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who indicated in court documents submitted last month that she endorsed some of the proposals.

Dlamini-Zuma and the government are currently facing a legal challenge from South African Breweries (SAB) over the recent ban on alcohol sales during the country’s Level 3 lockdown in January.

The Minister spoke out in favor of increasing the drinking age and banning alcohol advertising as part of the proposed measures.

“I consider all of these to be useful medium to long-term tools for reducing high alcohol consumption in South Africa that must be considered by lawmakers in due course,” she said in her affidavit.

Gradual reintroduction

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA SA), a civil society group campaigning for stronger alcohol policies, said the government made the mistake of not allowing the gradual return of alcohol sales.

“It should not be forgotten that after the first ban was lifted on June 1, 2020, there was an immediate surge in alcohol-related trauma cases, despite only allowing off-consumption sales. Six weeks later, the government was forced to reinstate the ban.

“That ban was lifted in September and virtually all alcohol restrictions were lifted by the end of November.”

The group said alcohol-related super-spreader events increased the number of cases and put renewed pressure on hospitals, requiring another ban from late December.

“Will we see that again later in the year when the expected ‘third wave’ strikes?

“We believe that a more cautious approach would limit the need for future bans and allow the alcohol sector to recover while reducing the likelihood that harmful alcohol use will sabotage the country’s fight against the virus.”

Growing pressure

Labor and civil society groups are also putting increasing pressure on the government to change South African alcohol laws more permanently.

Healthcare professionals are the latest group to call for changes, saying the strict lockdown provisions of the recent ban have dramatically improved hospital bed availability.

Trade association Cosatu said the decisions to completely ban the sale of alcohol – which happened three times in the last year – were unsustainable because of the damage it caused to the economy and resulted in job losses.

“The total ban on alcohol is not a solution and lazy and populist politicians who advocate it are misled,” it said.

However, the association said the country needed a “cultural shift” in relation to alcohol and tighter regulation of its consumption and advertising.

“It is an indictment against the government that 26 years after the democratic breakthrough, taverns are one of the few places for economic activity in townships and rural areas.

“The government needs to show leadership and the business world needs to show patriotism in dealing with the impact of the alcohol ban on the economy and the alcohol abuse problem on our health care system. There are no perfect solutions to this matter, so dialogue and compromise should be used to resolve it. ”

The opposition Democratic Alliance, which is also pushing for more permanent changes, says the government has pre-made laws in the starting blocks with the draft law to change alcohol.

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