New impetus to regulate alcohol

The Department of Trade and Industry will soon issue new alcohol regulations for public comment to kick start the process of implementing uniform regulations across the country. This emerged at a well-attended panel discussion on the National Liquor Norms and Standards hosted by Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication on Wednesday.

National Liquor Norms and Standards 2014, which Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies gazetted in February this year are set to be promulgated shortly.

Chief Director at the department’s National Liquor Authority (NLA), Prea Ramdhuny, said the purpose of the norms and standards was to harmonise successful implementation and enforcement of liquor laws. At present, each of the provinces has its own legislation in additional to a national one.
“It is clear that where there is non-alignment, the National Norms and Standards will prevail,” Ramdhuny said.

The country has an estimated 86 000 licensees with about 500 inspectors trained to monitor compliance with liquor license requirements. Despite this Ramdhuny said effective enforcement of legislation both at provincial and national level was critical.

Under the norms and standards, traders must ensure they do not sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 18 and are compelled to verify age by asking for ID. The regulations also stipulate shorter trading hours than previously allowed, a call for traders to provide patrons with free tap water and condoms and prohibits sale of liquor to persons already intoxicated.

President of the South African Leisure Tourism and Hospitality (SALTHA), formerly SA Liquors Traders Association, Churchill Mrasi made a plea to the DTI in particular, to involve SALTHA members in enforcing the legislation, effectively proposing a peer monitoring system. “Our members should take responsibility and make sure that customers don’t misbehave.”

Section Head of National Liquor Control at the South African Police Services Brigadier Elias Mahlabane pointed out that even though they had to contend with 10 different pieces of legislation nationally, SAPS was determined to enforce regulations.

“If you are illegal, we close you down. You’ll be surprised to find out that even though we are enforcing, illegal trading is blossoming Mahlabane said serious crimes including domestic violence, rape and robbery were mostly committed by people under the influence.

“What criteria do you use to issue these licenses? Do you visit the premises before you issue the licenses?” a member of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department asked Cleo Bodibe-Lushaba, director of client relations management at the Gauteng Liquor Board.

Bodibe-Lushaba explained that though the majority of outlets selling liquor on site in Gauteng townships were not licensed, they did in fact hold shebeen permits.

Shebeen permits were previously issued en masse to liquor traders in an attempt to redress the imbalances of the past. Temporary by origin, they were meant to have expired in 2013. However, due to outstanding issues, many of the 15 000 permits in Gauteng are still in circulation.

Bodibe-Lushaba explained that the revenue gained from the annual licensing fees was used to fund various programmes although this process is constantly reviewed and adapted.

In response to Soul City’s senior advocacy manager, Savera Kalideen’s comment that 7% of the disease burden of the country was as a result of alcohol abuse, Bodibe-Lushaba said: “Starting this financial year 2015/16 the intention is to use the 1% revenue to increase the number of rehab centres.

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