Johannesburg - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi hit out at the alcohol industry yesterday, accusing it several times of being arrogant and believing it should have the right to regulate itself.
Motsoaledi was speaking at the annual Hospital Association of SA conference a day after the Department of Sport and Recreation had expressed reservations about the Health Department’s proposed ban on alcohol advertising, saying it could have an adverse impact on sports development.
Motsoaledi said that everyone in the alcohol industry agreed that their product had caused much destruction, that it had “overburdened the health-care system, is destroying the transport sector and damaging the economy and they agree that there is much to do but then they say ‘whatever you do, don’t touch us, if you touch us jobs will be destroyed, the economy will be hurt’”.
Motsoaledi added that the liquor industry was rich and had the “arrogance of financial power”, which led it to believe that it should be allowed to self-regulate.
The Departments of Health and of Social Development announced in September that by the end of that month they would release a bill that would deal with proposals to restrict or possibly ban the advertising of alcohol.
The bill has not yet been released and so industry participants have no indication of the extent of the ban that the government is proposing.
Yesterday Motsoaledi stressed that he was not proposing to ban liquor and that his concern was to “save the young people in the townships”, whose lives were being destroyed by alcohol.
Motsoaledi went on to say that the industry apparently felt that “the minister of health must shut up” because of all the negative consequences that would result from his proposal, such as a drop in tax receipts for the SA Revenue Service and a collapse in economic growth.
“The arrogance I am getting from the alcohol industry is the same as we got from the tobacco industry, although I have never seen any evidence of anything good the tobacco industry has brought.”
Yesterday Mike Mabasa, the spokesman for the Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA), told Business Report that members of the industry had been invited to attend the meeting of the portfolio committee of the Department of Sport and Recreation, because the committee members wanted to understand the magnitude of the potential loss of revenue if there was a ban on sponsorship by booze makers.
Mabasa said that it was regrettable if the minister felt the industry was arrogant and that this view was also puzzling.
“I’m not sure why he feels we’re arrogant, the association and individual members have written to him requesting to meet him but he refuses.”
Mabasa said that ARA welcomed Parliament’s decision to put the bill into the public domain so that the industry could engage with the government and discuss ways to reduce the problems linked to alcohol use.
“But we’re still waiting for the release of the bill, we know nothing about it and have no idea what it will look like.”
In addition to the loss of sports sponsorships, a ban on alcohol advertising could cost the SABC over R500 million a year in lost income; DStv could lose over R400m and e.tv R300m. - Business Report