Government continues to misdirect focus to taverns and shebeens, which are regulated

GLF Quarterly Column

Liquor legislation in South Africa makes it an offence to consume alcohol in any public place, be it in the car, on the side of the road, at the garage, at the park or at the sports complex. There are specified offences in all provincial liquor legislation.

Our government is failing South Africans when it comes to enforcing this provision in the Liquor Act. Instead, their focus is misdirected to taverns and shebeens, which are places that are regulated.

Consuming liquor in public is uncontrollable and it contributes to binge drinking, abuse of alcohol and all other contact crimes including gender-based violence, which has increased rapidly. These do not always happen in taverns and shebeens because operators are monitoring the situation.

Our government is failing South Africans when it comes to enforcing this provision in the Liquor Act. Instead, their focus is misdirected to taverns and shebeens, which are places that are regulated.

There is no alcohol abuse intervention that will be effective enough other than enforcing the provision of the Liquor Act that prohibits consumption of liquor in public.

Most people who abuse alcohol are stubborn, they don’t respect the law and have negative behaviour. They don’t like to sit and have drinks at taverns because they don’t want to be controlled. The patrons of drinking venues are not exposed to rape and fighting because the owner is responsible for the safety of his or her patrons.

The new proposed Liquor Amendment Bill plans to introduce a number of big changes in the way that alcohol is consumed and distributed in South Africa. One of these changes is changing the drinking age from 18 to 21. To justify this, they say it is to curb early-onset alcoholism and to prevent any potential brain damage as the human brain does not fully develop until the mid-twenties. Yet people are allowed to get married at the age of 18!

In 2013, the Gauteng department of community safety issued a warning against public drinking, saying it was an illegal and arrestable offence. Nothing happened after that because people were going to get criminal records and become unemployable. There was a suitable punishment for such an offence, a fine of R300 or a night in a prison cell.

I would like to reiterate my call for inclusiveness when decisions are taken for the liquor industry. Liquor associations should form part of all policy-making processes.

By Musa Ntshangase, Gauteng Liquor Forum secretary