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

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) has 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 (10 February).

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

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

“Progress could and should have been made on processing the Liquor Amendment Bill that was approved by Cabinet for public comment in 2016. It contains a number of significant recommendations for reducing alcohol consumption and contributing to a safer country for all,” it said.

SAAPA said there has been a lack of movement on the bill since 2017 – it has still 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.

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“What is needed, however, is permanent legislative change and not reactive temporary measures that don’t deal with social challenges effectively and consistently,” it said.

First mooted in 2016, the Liquor Amendment Bill proposes a number of wide-reaching changes including:

  • Increasing the drinking age to 21 years;
  • The introduction of a 100-metre radius limitation of trade around educational and religious institutions;
  • Banning of any alcohol sales and advertising on social and small media;
  • The introduction of a new liability clause for alcohol sellers.

While the bill has been reconsidered a number of times over the last five years, most recently at the start of 2021, the bill has not taken any further steps to formal introduction.

Read: What to look out for in Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address – including new grants and business rules

Artmotion S.Africa

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