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Why drinking age of 21 will be bad for SA

| Legislation

Raising the legal drinking age to 21 will not be an effective deterrent for alcohol consumption among young people, the Democratic Alliance said.

Hosting a press conference at which the party introduced its own position on the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Liquor Policy, the party said there are a number of ill-considered regulations in the current document. 

“We are concerned by the lack of focus on enforceable solutions as well as poorly thought-out proposals [in the policy paper] that will put jobs at risk,” said the party’s two spokespeople on trade and industry, Geordin Hill-Lewis and Dean Macpherson. 

They argued that the law enforcement and the scope of law enforcement to enforce the original Liquor Act is “simply not good enough”, and that this would lead to an increase in alcohol-related deaths. 


The DA’s concerns about the DTI’s policy proposals include: 

- that the policy could infringe on provincial legislative mandates in that provinces have exclusive legislative powers in granting liquor licences, yet the new policy proposes that no new licences be issued within 500 metres of schools, places of worship and residential areas to name a few. The DA argues that provincial liquor regulators are better placed to design restrictions on licence applications. 

- the ability and powers of peace officers to enforce alcohol-related legislation. The new policy does not explicitly empower law enforcement officers to better enforce current legislation and as a result local and provincial authorities bear a disproportionate burden regarding healthcare and traffic-related costs of alcohol abuse. 

- raising the age limit to 21 years old may lead to a reduction in harm caused by alcohol abuse, but it will also increase illicit trade in liquor by driving it underground. The DA proposes that all persons under the age of 18 should be prohibited from entering bars, taverns, nightclubs and liquor stores. Conversely, persons over the age of 18 should produce their IDs for positive identification. 


In addition, the DA proposes: 

- that provincial governments are allowed to impose levies on alcohol sales. The revenue generated from the levies, the party argues, should be deposited into a dedicated fund managed by provincial authorities and be used to alleviate the healthcare and other costs related alcohol abuse. 

- that wholesalers of liquor maintain a database of clients similar to that of pharmacies that sell scheduled prescription medicine. This database will allow authorities to track, identify and trace suspicious behaviour

- that the licences of repeat offenders be revoked. Enterprises that sell liquor that have committed three offences should have their licences suspended automatically. 

The public and other stakeholders have until next week to give their input on the proposals, but the DA wants an extension of 30 days to allow more stakeholders to comment.  

On October 3 Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies released the national liquor amendment bill for public consultation.

South African citizens, communities and industry stakeholders have been given 45 days to provide input on the draft legislation, which aims to tighten regulation to address the many social ills associated with drinking. 

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