Cape Town moves towards stricter alcohol laws – here are the planned changes

 ·2 Sep 2020

The Western Cape’s minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, says that his provincial department plans to make amendments to the Western Cape Liquor Act.

Fritz said his department has been tasked with amending the act as a part of its a plan to halve the murder rate in the province over the next 10 years. The amendments are further aligned with Premier Alan Winde’s Smart Interventions aimed at reducing alcohol related harms (ARH), he said.

“During the lockdown, my department monitored the number of homicides which demonstrated that at the beginning of the lockdown, the murder rate had been halved.

“However, as we moved into alert levels 4 and 3, the murder figures increased but then again slightly decreased as the ban on alcohol and the curfew was reinstituted,” he said.

Fritz said that these are not sustainable interventions as they had a major impact on the province’s economy and contribute to unemployment in vulnerable communities.

Instead, Fritz said that the province was looking to introduce the following changes:

  • Ensuring that a record of all liquor sales is kept by outlets and prescribe the measure of detail required;
  • Permanently confiscating seized liquor following the payment of an admission of guilt fine;
  • Obliging licence holders to take reasonable measures to determine that a client is of legal drinking age;
  • Inserting an objective test within the Act to determine whether alcohol has been sold to an unlicensed outlet/individual;
  • Aligning the Act with the Liquor Products Act to ensure a uniform definition of “Illicit liquor”;
  • Providing for a public participation process to alter existing licences.

“As per the legislative process, the proposed amendments will be put forward to the provincial cabinet who will scrutinise and debate its contents.

“Thereafter, it will be prepared by legal services and be published in the Provincial Gazette for public input for a period of 21 days. The Bill will then be referred to the Provincial Parliament for debating and finalisation,” said Fritz.

Push for national changes

The provincial changes follow a push by the Democratic Alliance at a national level to introduce the Liquor Amendment Bill as a means of grappling with the country’s alcohol-related problems.

The DA’s Dean Macpherson said that the draft legislation has effectively been stuck in cabinet for the last four years, despite having the potential to introduce a number of regulations which could reduce the damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption in the country.

“While not perfect, the bill will allow MPs to work towards dealing with issues like access to liquor by minors and provinces being able to levy taxes on sales to fund cost recovery models, ” he said.

This view is supported by Southern Africa Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) director Maurice Smithers, who told TimesLive that the bill should be fast-tracked alongside new regulations around drunk driving.

“Government themselves acknowledge that there is an issue with the way alcohol is consumed, and it is now critical. We are baffled as to why they don’t take the tools they already have and deal with this problem,” Smithers said.

The Draft 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 new liability clause for alcohol-sellers.

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