Township small business asks for consultation before draft legislation, not after

Gauteng Liquor Forum concerned government will publish legislation in December, during their busiest period.

Gauteng Liquor Forum, with a membership of over 10 000 tavern owners in the Gauteng region, supports the recent call by the South African Informal Traders Alliance (SAITA) for Government to consult properly with affected parties before proceeding with its proposed ban on the display of cigarettes.

 “We have experienced a similar lack of consultation by the Department of Health on its proposed ban on all indoor smoking.  Businesses, especially those that are located in townships, are struggling to make ends meet and we cannot have a situation where our members are asked to invest in indoor smoking areas, only to have them abolished once government decides to change the laws,” says Fanny Mokoena, Chairperson of the Gauteng Liquor Forum.

“Complying with the proposed legislation is expensive, but also unrealistic. One of the proposals is to ban smoking 10 metres from any door, window or pathway.  I challenge government, or anyone, to find one single township where this will work.  This 10-metre sweet spot just doesn’t exist in townships,” says Mokoena.

GLF says it is conducting a survey of its members to find out how the proposals that are being mooted by the Department of Health to change the current tobacco legislation impact its members.

 “We are also deeply concerned that the Department of Health may publish legislation for comment in December, which will make it extremely difficult for us to repond thoroughly and appropriately, as it is our busiest time of the year.”

 GLF says it is conducting a survey of its members to find out how the proposals that are being mooted by the Department of Health to change the current tobacco legislation impact its members. 

 “The research isn’t finished yet, but so far, we see that people that have businesses in townships are not being consulted about these new laws, and that they are very worried that government has no idea how badly the Department of Health’s proposals will impact their business.  Many are saying that if they comply with new laws, their customers will just move to the taverns that don’t comply, which will have a terrible impact on these honest working people’s livelihoods,” says Mokoena.

 “While the whole of the country is suffering, nobody feels this pressure more than the more than 1 million small business owners that are trying to make an honest living. Our government should be making it easier for businesses to make money, hire workers and pay taxes. Instead they are making it harder for our members, and I fear that if nothing is done about this, many of these small and micro businesses will need to close down,” she said. 

 Proposals that the Department of Health have proposed include a complete ban on all outdoor smoking in public areas, the abolishment of all indoor smoking areas, banning the display of cigarettes at retailers and removing all recognisable branding from cigarette packs. 

 “We want government to know that, while we support interventions that promote health, there are far better ways of achieving this result, including educating people on the impact of smoking,” says Mokoena.

 The association wants government to consult them before, and not after they publish legislation.   They also want government to consult them about the impact of laws on a struggling second economy.