State proposes to hike drinking age to 21, restrict advertising


It will have a huge impact on major sports codes and teams, including for Bafana Bafana and the Proteas, who are supported by substantial sponsorships from SA Breweries (SAB) and others. Sporting codes stand to lose billions in alcohol sponsorships, which also extend to music and fashion.

The proposals in the Liquor Policy Review, a discussion document, start with an attempt to restrict the sale of liquor to the youth by raising the legal age of access from 18 to 21.

A crucial element is giving new powers to restrict advertising of alcohol and prohibit the promotion of liquor through sponsorships of sports teams and entertainment events.

The proposals aim to crack down on thousands of unlicenced shebeens and taverns by punishing suppliers for enabling high levels of inebriation.

An attempt to deter bar staff from serving customers who are already intoxicated is in the proposal, which threatens to hold bar workers, manufacturers, distributors and traders liable for any harm or damage if the drunken customer is involved in a car crash or crime.

Proposals to restrict trading hours for liquor outlets aim to limit accessibility. Notably, the restrictions are intended to be uniform across the national, provincial and municipal jurisdictions.

It is proposed that licences only be issued for outlets that are 500m from schools, churches, recreation facilities, residential areas and public institutions, or at buildings attached to petrol stations and public transport facilities.

This applies to new licences, but it envisages that existing licences will be phased out within two years.

The review says certain areas can be zoned or licenced for trading in liquor and entertainment, such as restaurant and bar strips in residential areas.

Attempts to reach SAB, one of the country’s biggest alcohol suppliers, for comment failed.

The president of the SA Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality Association (Saltha), Churchill Mrasi, said the issue of his members being next to schools on its own is not a threat and they accept it.

“What we have to do is agree on operational hours and that if you are close to a school, you should operate during specific hours because during the day there is no real business,” he said.

Saltha was founded in 1978, and its main aim was to lobby government to recognise shebeens as legitimate businesses. It was known then as the National Tavernier’s Association.

The prohibition of liquor licences for petrol service stations and premises attached to them or near public transport was reasonable, said Mrasi.

“It is reasonable because it may at some stage tempt people to buy liquor at a petrol station and that may encourage drinking and driving, but again it’s about the hours because there is no point in making that a problem during the day if alcohol is still served at places like Checkers, Spar and Pick n Pay.”

He said that the association is going to recommend reasonable operating hours that will suit the operators, as well as assist in curbing alcohol abuse.

“We are going to recommend to the department of trade and industry that operational hours be up to midnight [for shebeens and taverns]. It is currently 02:00, and we think that a reasonable time to shut down would be midnight,” he said.

Johannes Jordaan, chief economist at Economic Modelling Solutions, said while alcohol abuse was a big problem that had major social and emotional costs, the liquor industry added considerable value to the economy.

“Studies have found that the direct impact of the liquor industry in the South African economy was about R116bn in 2009, and the industry employees about 87 000 people directly. The impact is much bigger when the entire value chain of the liquor industry is taken into account,” said Jordaan.

Leon Louw, CEO of the Free Market Foundation, described the proposed amendments as “superficial nonsense” and “paternalistic”.

“If the government wants to take the responsibility of managing our lifestyle, which is actually our own right, they should also regulate obesity, which is also a huge problem,” said Louw.

He said banning alcohol marketing is a violation of consumer rights because it denies consumers information.

“People forget that we had very strict alcohol regulations during apartheid, which were repealed because they were ineffective and counterproductive. So why are we trying it again?”


. South Africans drink 5 billion litres of alcoholic drinks a year.

. We are ranked fourth by the World Health Organisation on a list of countries with the riskiest drinking patterns.

. Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug in South Africa.

. The cost of alcohol abuse is estimated to be 2% of gross domestic product – it was R19bn in 2004.

. Ever more children are born with foetal alcohol syndrome.

. Alcohol is the third-largest contributor to death and disability after sexually transmitted infections and interpersonal violence.

. 36 840 deaths in 2009 were related to alcohol.

.R116bn was spent by the health sector in 2009 to prevent and treat diseases and injuries associated with alcohol abuse.

. About 40% of the population drink alcohol, but only 10% are believed to be abusing it.


. Increase the legal drinking age from 18 to 21;

. Restrict times for sale of liquor in zoned areas;

. Restrict and set parameters for advertising and marketing of alcohol;

. Introduce liability for manufacturers

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