Have your say: How should alcohol be regulated in South Africa?

2012-10-28 19:52

How should liquor sales be regulated?

Not too long ago, a spate of news came out about alcohol being outlawed on Sundays. Although laws differ per province in South Africa, Gauteng's MEC was adamant that she would soon greatly restrict the sale of booze. All over the country, it became quite a hot topic, with liquor selling companies and wine farms naturally against it, and various religious and other groups cheering it on. It isn't a cut and dry issue - there are arguments for both sides of the fence.

A bit of background first-off tells us that the law specifically around Sunday liquor sales came into effect during apartheid, when Christianity was at the time South African state's favored religion. According to a very good article by Professor Patrick Lenta at UKZN, this Sunday liquor ban further imposed on other religious groups at the time that they were not full members of the community. Exactly this history of the law currently gets many people's backs up. For them, simply put, not all people are Christian and we don't live in apartheid any longer.

The government does receive a tax on liquor, however at the same time, it incurs great losses in the form of traffic accidents and consumer health issues. A further push from government for liquor restrictions is that they will all but stop drunk driving, but this is not true, as consumers can drink alcohol at home and drive anyway. Homeless people have actually been known to drink more on Mondays, the day after Sunday, due to the unavailability thereof.

In Germany, alcoholic beverages and strong liquors of all kinds are available all hours of the day, even at petrol stations. While South Africa is different in so many ways from Germany, some people state that by making liquor more available, the population will be less induced to break the law. Others strongly disagree. In Russia, until a few years ago, drinking in public was fairly legal, and people would regularly be seen walking down the street sipping a beer. However, this has been strictly stopped, perhaps proof of some kind that it breeds alcoholism.

A point people often raise is that they should own the choice of when and how they buy and consume alcohol. Many a time, the Sunday braai or family get-together arrives, only to find that there is not enough beer or wine, and there is nowhere to buy more. But, as mentioned, the Gauteng Liquor Bill proposes many restrictions, even banning pregnant women (of any age) from buying alcohol. It also wants to shorten the opening times of bars and clubs, and curb alcohol companies from advertising off premise.

One the one hand, if everyone is responsible about drinking liquor, it would seem that it could be allowed to purchase it everywhere and at any time. Many people, however, say that the masses will abuse this right and cause difficulties for the rest of the population.

What do you think about selling alcohol on Sundays? What about the times that bars and clubs should have to close? And where should one be able to buy, and drink, their liquor?

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