Posted: March 8, 2012
Speech Delivered by Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe at the National Liquor Regulation Conference Gallagher Estate, Midrand
Leadership of CONTRALESA
Senior officials from government departments,
Representatives of the Provincial Liquor Boards
Social partners, [World Health Organization, Central Drug Authority, Medical Research Council]
Role-players in the liquor industry,
Social formations from civil society,
Members of the press,
Ladies and gentlemen,
About 1000 delegates attended a conference onThe Department of Trade and Industry (the dti)
Government will consult before changing liquor laws
The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Ms Elizabeth Thabethe says government will consult all stakeholders on all issues related to liquor before changing the liquor legislation. She was speaking at the national liquor policy conference that was held at the Gallagher Estate in Midrand today. More than 1000 delegates from all tiers of government, liquor industry and non-government organisations attended the event, which was held uknder the theme “Towards a balanced and effective liquor regulation framework”.
“In the biennial summit that was held at eThekwini in 2010, resolutions were taken that were translated into government’s plan of action. It had emerged at the summit that there were areas that need to be revisited as they contribute to alcohol abuse and undermine and erode the economic value that the liquor industry contribute to the economy. This conference forms the basis of our mandate as the regulator of the liquor industry towards the delivery of outcomes that have been agreed to by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Anti-Substance Abuse,” said Thabethe.
She added that it was imperative that the dti consulted all stakeholders on areas that were highlighted at the summit and which within the responsibility of the dti, hence the national conference. These areas include the harmonisation of all laws and policies to facilitate effective regulation of liquor, minimize access to alcoholic beverages by vulnerable groups (minors, visibly pregnant, already intoxicated) reduce and harmonise hours of sale (differing for on-off-consumption) outlets; harmonise of the standards in relation to the locations of liquor outlets to schools and places of worship and their density and the raising of the liquor consumption age from 18 to 21 years.
Conduct education and awareness campaigns on alcohol abuse.
Ladies and gentlemen, South Africa is a country with wonderful people who embrace the ethos of ubuntu. We are known world –wide of our hospitality and a positive outlook in life. We pride ourselves of a Constitution rated among the best and most progressive, that gives rights to individuals to practice a trade of their choice, including the liquor trade. South Africa has realised that liquor is a commodity that is consumed in abundance, but because of its nature, it could not be treated like any ordinary commodity, hence it is regulated.
In 1989, South Africa had enacted a National Act that sought to unify the diverse acts that were in operation in order to regulate the sale of all liquor products as were defined by the Liquor Product Act and also set trading hours nationally. As we progressed with the regulation of the liquor trade, it became clear that the rate of abuse of liquor was increasing and so were disparities in the manner in which licences were issued to outlets.
In 2003, the Liquor Act No 59 was enacted with two main objectives: (1) to reduce the socio-economic impact and other costs of alcohol abuse and (2) to promote the development of a responsible and sustainable liquor industry. The purpose of the Act was to balance the two objectives for the good of all South African.
Ladies and Gentlemen, analyzing the statistics that have been highlighted in the Baseline Study we have commissioned as the dti in 2010, we have discovered that besides the figures posted by the research – there has been a murmurs and complaints from our communities on the number of outlets that are within the different communities, the late trading hours, the discomfort that other outlets cause within residential areas and the difficulties the enforcers experience moving from one province to another.
This is more problematic if one looks at the set-up in the peri-urban and the rural communities where liquor trading seems to be the only viable business and we seemed to miss the mark when we issue licences.
In trying to mitigate the level of substance abuse, alcohol included, government established the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Anti-Substance Abuse in which the dti is also a member.
Ladies and gentlemen, I will mention but a few of the areas that were highlighted at the summit and are part of the government’s plan of action, which also are within the responsibility of the dti:
Harmonization of all laws and policies to facilitate effective regulation of liquor
Minimize access to alcoholic beverages by vulnerable groups (minors, visibly pregnant, already intoxicated)
Reduce and harmonise hours of sale (differing for on- & off-consumption) outlets;
Harmonise the standards in relation to the locations of liquor outlets to schools and places of worship and their density;
Raise the liquor consumption age from 18 to 21 years;
Conduct education and awareness campaigns on alcohol abuse.
The areas that have been mentioned are part of the dti’s mandate as the regulator of the liquor industry based on the objects of Act 59 of 2003. The list I had mentioned is not exhaustive as some areas that were raised in the summit and are in the public debates are within the mandates of other government departments and will still be dealt with as part of the Government’s Programme of Action.
Since one of the deliverables is to develop a Comprehensive Liquor Policy by 2012/13, the dti realised that it needed to cluster together matters that may be addressed jointly and invite all stakeholders to air their views so as to have a framework on which to start drafting the policy.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to share some of the views that I was toying with regarding the issue of the drinking age limit. The summit suggested that the dti look at the approach of raising the age from 18 to 21 years. What came to mind as the regulator was: Should liquor now only be sold to those above 21 years? Are we saying only those above 21 should drink liquor? What happens if a minor is found drunk? Will it be a misdemeanour? What if the child got the liquor from an adult and not directly from a retailer?
Ladies and gentlemen, one realises that we need sober minds to develop a base that will enable us to address the issues in the different commissions and minimise unintended consequences. the dti believes in an approach that is inclusive and balanced, the principle is to listen to those that will be affected by the policy, understand the impact the present situation has on them and the proposed solution desired that will still encapsulate both the objects of Act 59. Hence, the theme of this conference is “Towards a balanced and effective liquor regulation framework”.
Ladies and gentlemen, we need to find novel ways of mitigating the harm of alcohol abuse and still protect the rights of those of us that chose the liquor industry as their trade. We call each one of us to bring our heads together, contribute positively and in a matured manner to the issues that we all need solutions to, so that we are not judged harshly by history, but be hailed as pioneers that contributed to build healthy communities with a vibrant economy.
At the beginning of this financial year, as the dti and the provincial liquor authorities, we have been vigorous in educating our traders around issues where they need to be compliant as emphasised in the licence conditions. We are still urging our communities as well to be active role players in assisting us to regulate the trade better, we would further like to re-emphasise that liquor regulation is “everybody’s business”. We value your input and your continued support as we all work towards a common goal of achieving a balanced and effective liquor regulation framework.
I thank you!!!!