Opinions divided on new liquor laws

2013-09-05 00:00

LIQUOR trading on Sundays will be legal in a few months, but society remains deeply divided about what good it will do in terms of curbing excessive alcohol consumption.

The KwaZulu-Natal legislature last week passed the Liquor Licensing Amendment Bill, which paves the way for the enactment of the KZN Liquor Licensing Act of 2010.

KwaZulu-Natal Liquor Authority CEO Stella Khumalo said it would take a few months before the commencement of the new act.

The Economic Development and Tourism Department would have to gazette the bill and inform the Trade and Industry Minister to prepare and publish a repeal of the old Liquor Act, Act 27 of 1989, so that the new act could come into force.

The bill allows for the sale of liquor on Sundays, among other things. It was approved by most parties in the KZN legislature, barring the ACDP.

Among the vocal critics were South Africans Against Drunk Driving, which believes the province is going backwards compared with the Western Cape, which allowed Sunday trading for many years, but is now set to curb Sunday trading hours.

“Already there are too many South Africans drinking heavily on a Sunday. This is just going to make it worse,” said SADD’s Caro Smit.

She fears that having longer trading hours will cause an increase in road accidents, deaths and injuries.

KZN Council of Churches chairperson Bishop Mike Voster said the number of accidents on KZN roads caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol was often lamented and this move sent out the wrong signal — “that we are okay with this”.

However, My Liquors owner Neville Naick­er felt that allowing liquor sales on Sundays would reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road on those days.

He said customers would be able to buy their liquor and drink it at home on Sundays, rather than drinking at shebeens or bars late on Saturdays, and then driving.

Naicker said he expected that trading on Sundays would increase sales, which would help him pay the rent on a day when he traditionally didn’t make any money.

KZN Liquor Retailers managing director Chris Hensey said the provincial authority was unclear over whether the ban would be lifted by the festive season or in early 2014.

“There is speculation that it will happen before the festive season,” Hensey said.

The issue of liquor trading being allowed on a Sunday was subjective and depended on personal religious views, he said.

“It depends on whether you are overly religious and whether you think Sunday should be a religious holiday or not. If you can go into a bakery and buy a bun, or to the cinema on a Sunday, why can’t you go to the bottle store and buy a bottle of wine?”

He said the nature of doing business in South Africa had changed dramatically over the past 20 years due to the developing democracy and global dynamics.

“There are not many countries in the world where you can’t buy alcohol on a Sunday. It is a progressive move to internationalise the country, and its business and service models,” said Hensey.

However, he said he was concerned that the proposed trading hours were 10 am to 3.30 pm, which differed from the 9 am to 2 pm trading hours in the rest of the country.

He said this would have a negative impact on staff, as they would get home much later in the afternoon. He added that staff would also require double pay for the day. However, he said the move was not likely to increase liquor sales, but would have the effect of diluting Friday and Saturday sales.

What liquor traders say

HERVE Allen, owner of Marriot Garden Liquor Store, which specialises in wine and craft beers, said the change may result in people making less use of shebeens and illegal liquor outlets on a Sunday in favour of legitimate and safer outlets.

He was sceptical about opening on a Sunday as he operated in a niche market and his customers were unlikely to buy much on a Sunday.

Shoprite Checkers spokesperson Sarita van Wyk said: “We do not think that the change in trading hours will impact our business materially.”

Pick n Pay spokesperson Tamra Veley said the company believed that the availability of alcohol from reputable and law-abiding retail groups helped to prevent alcohol sales to underage consumers.

Liberty Liquors operations manager Mervyn Govender said Sunday trading would entail additional costs, as it meant restructuring staff contracts, working extra hours and employing more staff.

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