The South African liquor industry intends to join forces with government in establishing a mechanism to address harmful alcohol use in the country.
The industry recognises the harm associated with alcohol abuse and will strengthen our efforts to fight it,” the wine, spirits and beer industry stated in a collective response to the Draft South African National Liquor Policy. The draft policy, published for public comment by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in May this year, focuses strongly on issues hampering progress in the industry. These include the socioeconomic impact of alcohol abuse and the slow pace of transformation.
Facelift for the ARA
In their response to the draft legislation proposal that a government-managed fund be established to combat alcohol abuse, the industry suggested creating what it calls an “alcohol harm reduction fund, under a completely reconstituted ARA (Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use), to promote the responsible consumption of alcohol”.
The ARA is the existing vehicle through which the liquor industry coordinates projects for alcohol abuse awareness and socio-economic upliftment. The Association is currently funded by a voluntary levy from alcohol manufacturers and distributors.
The “new ARA” would be a partnership between government, industry and civil society. Public awareness, education and training, research and a contribution to the treatment of those suffering from abuse would be its main focus.
A funding model could be based on a percentage of revenue from manufacturers, importers of finished products, wholesalers and eventually retailers – according to a sliding scale and to be phased in. Those who undertake harm prevention projects in their individual capacity would be able to retain part of their contribution, provided that the projects are run under the auspices of the ARA as oversight body.
Greater BBBEE lenience
Although major players have made significant progress in the implementation of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Generic Codes of Good Practice, the revised BBBEE sector codes implemented in May resulted in many failing to maintain their status.
Industry asked government to consider setting the compliance target for manufacturers and distributors to retain, receive or renew liquor licences at the minimum BBBEE level, followed by a phasing in of higher compliance levels over a period of time. Non-compliant entities should also be afforded the opportunity to offer a plan towards obtaining compliance without the risk of their licence being revoked.
The DTI held discussion forums in communities throughout the country and will review the outcomes of these, along with all other public and industry comments. Once the draft policy has been amended, it will be open for discussion again, after which legislation will be tabled before Cabinet.
The standardisation of alcohol regulations and the manufacturing of and trade in illicit alcohol were other areas of concern addressed by the draft legislation.
In response to the draft legislation the liquor industry proposed (among others):
- Quantifying and continuously auditing illicit trade;
- Retaining the legal drinking age at 18 years, compared to 21 years proposed by the draft legislation and using smart ID cards to enforce it;
- More stringent criminal liability for individuals who commit crimes under the influence of alcohol, as opposed to holding the trader liable;
- Greater self-regulation from ARA members with regard to responsible messaging, restrictions on radio, TV, outdoor and digital advertising – as a counter to a total advertising black-out; and
- Revising trading hours of outlets within a 500 m radius of schools or places of worship to exclude school hours or an agreed time of worship.
As published in the October 2015 issue of WineLand magazine.