Sunday booze ban ends

2013-03-12 00:00

ONE of the last taboos in KwaZulu-Natal is about to fall — and feelings about its demise are mixed.

In three weeks, the province will allow the sale of liquor on Sundays, doing away with an old national law that restricted tipplers to buying their booze six days a week.

The new legislation, called the KZN Liquor Licensing Act no. 6 of 2010, has been sitting in the provincial Legislature for the last year waiting for technical amendments.

Once passed, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) can repeal the old KZN Liquor Act, paving the way for a big change in the way licences are granted and sales are regulated in the province.

Along with Sunday sales would come stricter application of licence conditions, said Stella Khumalo, CEO of the KZN Liquor Authority. For example, no new permit will be given to any trader within 500 metres of a school or place of worship. Existing traders remain unaffected.

Organisations like Families South Africa (Famsa) believe the availability of alcohol on Sundays is bad news for an already troubled society. Famsa Durban social work supervisor Rochelle Govender said domestic violence generally spiked on weekends and alcohol abuse was a key factor in splitting families apart.

“It brings relief to a lot of families that alcohol cannot be bought on Sundays … for them, it’s their only day of peace.”

She questioned whether authorities would have the teeth to enforce the new regulations, as they have vowed.

The province has about 10 000 licences on its books. The Liquor Authority, running since August last year, has 92 staff split into four business units — liquor licensing and business administration, social responsibility, compliance and enforcement, and support.

While the DTI is responsible for the control and issuing of licences to major manufacturers and wholesalers, the new act will regulate the retail sector and micro-manufacturers, like small craft breweries.

Khumalo said the imminent laws (expected by April 1) required public participation when granting any licence — at the moment applicants only need to publish their intent in the Government Gazette.

Applicants will also have to give notice to the public in two locally circulating newspapers.

Key to the new laws was the emphasis on smaller players in the industry and helping them to establish themselves in the market underpinned by diversity of ownership and “an ethos of social responsibility”, said Khumalo.

Adrian Botha, director of the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use, comprising the country’s major liquor manufacturers, welcomed the changes.

“Availability does not equal abuse,” said Botha, adding there was no research he had seen linking heightened abuse with purchases on Sunday.

• brett.horner@witness.co.za

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