Township business lobbies ready for battle

Organised tavern owners and other hospitality businesses in townships in Gauteng are gearing up to fight the new draft Liquor Amendment Bill, as well as an expected amendment to the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act, which hasn’t been published yet.

The SA Liquor Traders’ Association, the Gauteng Liquor Forum and the National Tourism and Hospitality Association have made combined submissions to the bill, which was gazetted last month by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

At a media briefing on Thursday, they specifically attacked the proposal to ban the retail of liquor within 500m of “schools, places of worship, recreational facilities, rehabilitation or treatment centres, residential areas, public institutions and other like amenities”.

This automatically criminalises all taverns that do business in a dense township, they argue.

This is despite the liquor bill containing a special provision that exempts existing licensed businesses and “areas with the highest population density” from the 500m rule.

The same groups made a similar attack on proposed new tobacco regulations in 2013, which proposed banning smoking indoors and within 10m of an entrance of a building.

While those tobacco regulations were not put into effect, the township business groups spent much of their briefing attacking Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s stated intention to revive them and add more anti-smoking rules.

National Tourism and Hospitality Association president Fanny Mokoena said policymakers had not “taken into account how this will work in a township”.

“These laws do not affect big white business. This problem is faced by small black business. No one says stop producing alcohol. They say close down the shebeens,” she said.

Mishack Hlophe, the president of the SA Liquor Traders’ Association, said the township business groups had been assisted by SA Breweries in drafting their submissions.

This follows similar assistance given to the same groups by tobacco giant Philip Morris to draft a position against the 2013 tobacco regulations.

“We ask big business to assist us to draft submissions,” he said.

“Bills are not written by government officials – they use liquor experts, so we need liquor minds for our submission,” he said.

Asked what he would propose as an alternative to the probable future restrictions to smoking in public, Hlophe said that the current situation worked well.

“People normally go outside. It is working. People are happy.”

The groupings also take issue with raising the legal drinking age to 21 and to the eventual intention by government to introduce plain-packaging rules for cigarettes.

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