Watch out, phuza people!

2011-03-12 17:50

Drinking is a national pastime in South Africa but this week Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini announced government’s intention to put a spanner in the works for youngsters by possibly upping the legal drinking age from 18 to 21.

We spoke to Conny Nxumalo, chief ­director for Family and Social Crime ­Prevention in the Department of Social Development, about these and other ­alcohol-related policy proposals.

How did we become a phuza nation?
Liquor is easily available. While doing research on this matter we discovered that ­every second house in the township sells alcohol.

When we asked people why they chose to drink, some of them said it was because of boredom, lack of recreational activities and no jobs.

Why is government only coming down hard on alcohol abuse now?

Alcohol is legal, which makes it is easy and accessible to people. So what we are trying to do now is to put ­measures in place to limit social ills such as alcohol abuse.

That is why we will have a national debate on the matter at a summit to allow people to discuss their views on the matter.

Age is not the only factor but it needs to be coupled with other measures such as dealing with advertising and the mushrooming of taverns. Therefore we are looking at addressing all these issues and not just the age factor.

How will this stop tavern, shebeen and pub owners from selling liquor to ­minors?

The proposed legislation still needs to be debated before we can discuss how to focus on developing methods to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors. But we are looking at regulating licences.

How will the new laws be enforced? Will we have booze police?
I cannot go into details as it is still a proposed law.

How will you tackle the perception that it’s cool to drink? We see many images of politicians and celebrities drinking.
We will be looking at approving the contents of adverts (before they are ­published or flighted) as well as the time at which they are shown. ­

Government alone will not be responsible for regulating advertisements. But we still have to debate it.

Will the minister involve Julius Malema and the ANC Youth League in her ­anti-drinking campaign?
I would not know but this problem cuts across all political parties, therefore all political parties have a responsibility to work ­together on this problem.

Early this year the Sowetan published front-page pictures of two 15-year-old boys drinking beer on their way home from school. How can government stop this from happening? Doesn’t this need much greater intervention than ­legislative changes?
The laws against public drinking are something we need to enforce. As they stand, some of the municipal bylaws are not properly defined so we need to look into such issues. These are some of the factors we need to consider, along with the legislative changes.

Is tackling alcohol abuse one of the minister’s priorities for her time in ­office?
Yes, but it also includes abuse of ­other drugs.

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