File picture: Supplied

Johannesburg - Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has announced tough new laws that will hold liquor retailers liable for people who commit offences in unlicensed pubs and shebeens and outside the drinking holes when drunk.

Davies said unlicensed sellers would also be held liable for similar crimes committed by drunken people in their places and outside.

Other tight provisions announced in the National Liquor Amendment Bill included the restriction of alcohol advertising on radio and TV - a significant departure from the previous position of the government for a complete ban of alcohol advertising in the country, along the lines of the banning of tobacco advertising introduced by former health minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in 1998.

Briefing the media in Parliament yesterday, Davies said South Africa had the highest consumption of alcohol in the world, which was between 10 percent and 12 percent compared with the world average of 6 percent. He said accidents cost the country R37.9 billion a year.

“The figures are telling us that the situation is not getting better. We need to get measures to deal with alcohol abuse,” he said.

He said the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) wanted to introduce civil liability to liquor retailers for people involved in criminal offences when drunk from unlicensed shebeens. “Manufactures and suppliers who supply liquor to illegal traders and if there is damage the manufacturers will be held liable,” he said.

“If there is a supply of alcohol to someone visibly drunk and that person commits an offence, the supplier will have to show why they cannot bear civil liability,” he said.

This is the first time in South Africa that such measures have been introduced, and the government wants liquor retailers to be more responsible and to sell only to licensed small retailers.

Clamping down

The dti was also clamping down on unlicensed shebeens where some of the offences were committed. Illegal liquor trading was not allowed and it should remain that way.

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters also told Parliament a few months ago that young people were the ones who were mostly involved in road accidents. Peters said scientific studies done by the government showed that young people between the ages of 19 and 34 years were responsible for most fatalities on the roads.

Davies said the government would also restrict the advertising of alcohol on TV and radio to be flighted at certain times. There will be limits on billboards for alcohol.

Alcohol adverts will be restricted in areas like transport facilities and garages where there are many people.

There will be restrictions in places near to the schools and churches, Davies said. Liquor spots should be no less than 500m away from schools and churches, he added.

Davies said the National Liquor Amendment Bill would be released for public comment for 45 days before it was tabled in Parliament. He said there would be two forms of liability: one against unlicensed outlets, and the second for licensed retailers.

“If you serve someone alcohol who is drunk and they go out and cause an offence you have to start paying for it,” he said.