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SAAPA: Govt must permanently reduce alcohol-related harm in SA

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance has urged the presidency to expedite the Liquor Amendment Bill of 2017 that has been stalled despite extensive consultation.

File image: 123rf.

JOHANNESBURG - The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) on Sunday said they wanted government to do more to reduce alcohol-related harm in South Africa.

It welcomed the acknowledgement of alcohol abuse and its impact on communities in the African National Congress’s (ANC) January 8 statement.

The Alliance agreed with President Cyril Ramaphosa that there was a need for a national strategy that included legislative reviews and community mobilisation.

SAAPA has urged the presidency to expedite the Liquor Amendment Bill of 2017 that has been stalled despite extensive consultation.

According to the Alliance, the immediate adoption of the Bill will prove the current administration's commitment to permanently reducing alcohol harms and not relying on emergency measures in times of crisis.

Director Maurice Smithers, said, “COVID has highlighted the challenges we have around alcohol and the president is taking up what a lot of people have said.”

Smithers accused the government of lip service.

“We see this as a very positive sign that this is being thought about and therefore, we are pushing the president to ensure that at least the Liquor Amendment Bill should actually be passed as soon as possible.”

In a statement released on Sunday, SAAPA said it looked forward to engaging with government as a stakeholder representing civil society committed to supporting the transformational agenda and delivering social goods for the advancement of all South Africans.

The Liquor Amendment Bill, inter alia:

  1. Makes provision for increasing the drinking age to 21 years to stop consumption by those most prone to binge drinking. In 2018, WHO reported excessive heavy drinking particularly amongst 15-19 year olds.

  2. Makes provision for holding distributors, retailers and traders liable for alcohol-related harm perpetrated by their customers. It assumes the introduction of a tracking mechanism, which will contribute toy reducing sales into the unlicensed and illegal sector where 70% of beer is sold.

  3. Makes provision for limiting alcohol advertising, including a complete ban of alcohol ads on social media, a platform largely used by young people.

SAAPA said the adoption of the Liquor Amendment Bill would mean better regulation of the distribution, trading and marketing of alcohol, a change for the better in social drinking norms, and a reduction in the economic and social burden of alcohol-attributable harm on the country.

Currently, there is a blanket ban on alcohol sales in the country due to the current lockdown level three restrictions.

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