Government’s liquor policy and draft Liquor Amendment Bill should focus more on enforcement than raising the legal age for alcohol consumption and restricting the issuance of trading licences‚ the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Tuesday.
The Department of Trade and Industry has released a draft bill for public comment. It proposes to raise the legal age of drinking to 21 years from 18 years; make the supplier of drink to an already inebriated person liable for any subsequent damage or injury; and to restrict the opening of liquor retail outlets in the proximity of residential areas and other community facilities.
Also‚ liquor advertising directed at the young would be prohibited and manufacturers and suppliers would have to ensure that alcohol was not supplied to unlicensed traders.
DA MP Dean Macpherson said in an interview ahead of the department’s briefing to Parliament’s trade and industry committee on Tuesday that the proposals were flawed. The department‚ he said‚ had not undertaken any studies into the effectiveness of raising the age of drinking‚ which the DA opposed.
“Drinking at the age of 18 years is socially acceptable‚” Macpherson said.
Rather‚ he said‚ a comprehensive‚ interdepartmental approach was required which would involve more on the spot-testing of drivers for alcohol consumption and stiffer penalties‚ such as the suspension of a driving licence‚ for those found guilty of drunken driving.
Greater emphasis needed to put on enforcement which should be expanded to include the South African Police Service.
The DA also believed that the proposals were unconstitutional insofar as national government would set national norms and standards — for instance on trading hours and licensing — which provinces would be required to comply with. Macpherson argued that this impinged on the powers of provincial governments as liquor regulation was a concurrent competence.
Provinces should also be able to impose levies to deal with the costs of alcohol-related enforcement.
In his briefing to the committee‚ the department’s acting deputy director-general‚ MacDonald Ntshetenzhe‚ expressed confidence that the proposals would address and help reduce the socio economic costs of alcohol abuse in SA which were far too high.