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South Africa’s economy stands to lose out on R7.4 billion if a “ban” on alcohol advertising was introduced, thousands of jobs would be lost and Bafana Bafana would be without a major sponsor.
These were some of the concerns raised by representatives of the alcohol industry and sports and recreation director-general Alec Moemi.
While parliamentary committee chairman and ANC MP Richard Mdakane laid down the ground rules – “there’s no Bill before Parliament. We can’t anticipate anything,” he said – the almost three-hour meeting was all about the dire consequences of what was referred to as “the ban on alcohol advertising” by South African Breweries, the Association for Responsible Alcohol Use and BMi Sports Info, an independent research company.
The Control of Marketing of Alcohol Beverages Bill, which was approved by cabinet last month, aims to limit alcohol advertising, prohibit any sponsorship associated with, and the promotion of, alcoholic beverages, according to a recent briefing by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.
While the departments of Health and Social Development supported the proposals as alcohol-related deaths and injury cost South Africa an estimated R38bn a year, the Department of Sports and Recreation and Arts and Culture, worried about loss of sponsorship income. As a senior civil servant, Moemi said, he was aware of the bill, but would leave it to the Health Department.
“Those who say the ban must be in place, must indicate to us where the money comes from (for sport). We insist if such a ban takes course, then we need a guarantee that money will come. This time we will not accept word of mouth. It must be in the legislation.”
Moemi said the department had embraced the ban on tobacco advertising on the undertaking that any lost sponsorships would be compensated through income from increased sin taxes. Every year the sin taxes had increased, but nothing had come their way.
“It will be a sorry day for us in sport… if we lose such a significant sponsor (alcohol companies),” Moemi added.
Yesterday’s discussions highlighted how South Africa’s economy would lose R7.4bn if a “ban” on sponsorship was introduced, and about 12 000 jobs would also disappear.
MPs heard that with alcohol companies contributing about R1.8bn on sports sponsorship and advertising in 2012, worst affected by any “ban” would be the SABC, which would lose around R500m, including money required to secure broadcast rights.
Pointing out that Absa had withdrawn its sponsorship of Bafana Bafana, the Association for Responsible Alcohol Use spokesman Michael Mabasa said “with an impending ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship… Bafana has no sponsorship at all”. The Proteas also has an alcohol sponsor.
Not wanting “to be ahead of government”, Mabasa indicated advertising could be done differently: instead of flighting alcohol adverts “when our children are watching Generations, let’s move them to when our children are asleep”. SAB corporate affairs and transformation executive director Vincent Maphai said only 35 percent of South Africans drank, and it was estimated just 10 percent to 20 percent abused alcohol.
“The minority that consumes (alcohol) is doing disproportionate social harm,” he said, arguing steps against alcohol companies sponsorships and advertising would not hit the mark.
“If the absence of advertising has not stopped the proliferation of drugs, what makes us think a ban on advertising will stop alcohol abuse?” he said.
Instead he called for the legalisation and regulation of the alcohol industry to reverse a situation in which there were more alcohol licences at the V&A Waterfront than on the whole of the Cape Flats.
BMi Sports Info head of strategy David Sidenberg pointed out that 26 percent of alcohol consumed was illegally-obtained, and would thus not be affected by a ban on alcohol advertising.
Instead of a clampdown, he argued, it was important to carry on with anti-drunk driving messages. And if alcohol companies were no longer involved in sponsorships and advertising, it was unlikely they would carry the costs of such campaigns. This would instead fall to the government.