Call for a new drinking age and other alcohol laws in South Africa

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to commit to a number of alcohol-related regulatory changes in his State of the Nation address on Thursday evening (February 10).

The president has previously said that increasing the age limit, reducing trading hours, increasing alcohol tax and limiting advertising should all be considered as possible interventions to reduce the negative impact of harmful consumption.

“Despite these statements, very little has actually happened to address alcohol-related harm over the past year,” the civil society group said.

“Progress could and should have been made in dealing with the Liquor Bill which was approved by Cabinet for public consultation in 2016. It contains a number of important recommendations to reduce alcohol consumption and help to a safer country for all,” he said.

SAAPA said there has been a lack of movement on the bill since 2017 – it has yet to be tabled in parliament for consideration there and in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

The group pointed to the temporary restrictions put in place to manage Covid-19 infection levels which demonstrated that strengthened legislation is effective in reducing harmful drinking.

“What is needed, however, is permanent legislative change and not reactive temporary measures that do not address social challenges effectively and coherently,” he said.

First proposed in 2016, the Liquor Amendment Bill proposes a number of sweeping changes, including:

  • Raise the drinking age to 21;
  • The introduction of a radius limit of 100 meters around schools and religious establishments;
  • Prohibition of all alcohol sales and advertising on social networks and small media;
  • The introduction of a new liability clause for alcohol sellers.

Although the bill has been revisited several times over the past five years, most recently at the early 2021Bill took no further steps for formal introduction.

Read: What to look for in Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address – including new subsidies and trade rules

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