Gauteng - Gauteng liquor traders’ hopes of a reprieve on the proposal to abolish Sunday alcohol sales took a major knock on Friday when the provincial legislature introduced the Gauteng Liquor Bill, which could give effect to draft regulations seeking to impose an alcohol ban on Sundays.
Although the bill does not spell out a prohibition of Sunday liquor sales, the draft regulations published alongside it do and could be legally enforced if the bill becomes law.
The bill, which comes just over a year after Premier Nomvula Mokonyane expressed concern over alcohol abuse in the province, will now go into the portfolio committee on economic development, which will decide when to hold public hearings.
The committee has the power to change the bill drastically depending on the outcome of its public hearings.
But some in the liquor trade vowed on Friday to fight to the bitter end because the bill would have a negative impact on job creation and small and medium enterprises.
“We have already stated that banning alcohol sales on Sunday was going to reduce the profitability of many businesses and that it will not lead to a decrease in demand for alcohol,” said SA Liquor Traders Association’s Saint Madlala.
“This bill is going to impact on the cultural and social life of many people. You can’t solve any problem by shutting down businesses because if you take bread out of people’s mouths you cannot expect them to clap hands. There will be some form of reaction.”
Introducing the bill to the legislature on Friday, Economic Development MEC Nkosiphendule Kolisile said liquor regulation was turbulent ground.
“This is more so given the painful and unfortunate history of liquor regulation in South Africa,” he said. “The history of liquor trade in this country is… closely tied to early industrialisation, urbanisation and the struggle against repression and oppression.”
Kolisile highlighted the intricate relationship between the liquor trade, economic opportunity and survival in the country.
“We are committed to… endeavours to change the trajectory of liquor regulation so that it becomes more democratic and people-centred. We must, as government, wield liquor regulation to the maximum benefit of the people. We have a critical challenge to ensure that liquor regulation encourages the responsible sale and consumption of alcohol while not undermining economic opportunities available to those engaged in the trade.”
He said the bill provided for the control and licensing of the retail sale and supply of liquor.
The proposal was to ban pregnant women, minors and anyone wearing a school uniform from buying liquor, with inspectors sent to traders to ensure compliance.
It included the establishment of an appeal board and new categories of licences.
But Madlala said the ban on Sunday booze had overshadowed all other matters in the bill because it had a greater impact not only on the industry but ordinary people.
“It will effectively promote illegal liquor trading which will stretch law enforcement and create another problem of exploitation of the poor.”