South African wineries could soon be held liable for alcohol-related accidents, and the legal drinking age could increase to 21 years. A recently published Liquor Policy Review has the drinks industry abuzz. 

The current South African National Liquor Act 59 of 2003 has, according to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, not been successful in curbing alcohol abuse since its inception more than a decade ago.

As part of a regular five-year reappraisal of South Africa’s alcohol laws, the Liquor Policy Review was recently released for public comment by the National Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and will be followed by a proper consultation process.

“The challenge of balancing the effect of liquor abuse and excessive consumption of liquor against promoting the economic imperatives of the industry remains vast,” Davies said.

The review aims to address perceived gaps in the existing legislation. This would include:

  • Reducing the socio-economic impact of liquor and other costs of alcohol abuse;
  • Increasing transformation in the liquor industry;
  • Standardising key aspects of regulation at municipal, provincial and national level;
  • Eradicating manufacturing and trading in illegal liquor; and
  • Improving capacity and enforcement constraints within the National Liquor Authority.

The document was published on 20 May 2015 with the deadline for public comment within 30 calendar days. However, following constructive consultation sessions with representatives from ARA (Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use) – which included Salba (SA Liquor

Brandowners’ Association), VinPro and SA Breweries – the deadline was extended to 13 August 2015.

In good spirit

“The discussions took place in good spirit, and the extension of the comment period is encouraging,” said Christo Conradie, VinPro’s manager: wine cellars, who represented the wine producer organisation. He added that the review in its current form was not cast in stone and a proper consultation process would follow after all comments had been considered. A regulatory impact assessment would also have to be performed before the final amendments could be submitted to the cabinet.

“The DTI is very clear about the fact that they will not accept criticism of aspects in the review, without the provision of suitable alternatives,” Conradie said. He urged producers to take special note of the proposed BBBEE (Broadbased Black Economic Empowerment) requirements with regard to licences and take the necessary steps to get their BEE verification in order.

The new liquor policy review proposes:

  • Raising the minimum legal age at which alcohol can be purchased and consumed from 18 to 21 years;
  • Regulating the days and hours of alcohol sales;
  • Restricting advertising of alcohol, and prohibitions on sponsorship and promotion associated with alcohol;
  • No serving of alcohol to intoxicated people. Should the intoxicated person be involved in a car accident or a crime related to substance abuse, the manufacturer, distributor and trader should bear liability for any harm or damages;
  • Holding the manufacturer or supplier liable if its products are found in illegal or unlicensed outlets;
  • Alcohol retailers should be at least 500m away from schools, places of worship, recreation, rehabilitation or treatment centres, residential areas and public institutions;
  • No issuing of alcohol licences to petrol stations or places near public transport;
  • Revoking licences of manufacturers or suppliers who do not comply with the BBBEE (Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment) Codes of Good Practice.

Published in the August 2015 issue of WineLand magazine.

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