A patron pours a glass of whisky at a shebeen in Soweto. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Cape Town - Liquor brewers, merchants and traders have launched a campaign against the government’s plan to impose stricter regulations on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes.

The battle has pitted a coalition of activists fighting alcohol abuse and smoking against lobbyists for small businesses which fear the proposed laws will force many to shutdown.

This week, the SA Liquor Traders Association (Salta) warned the government against passing tougher laws that would damage businesses operating in townships.

Salta president Mish Hlophe said his association was sending a clear message to Parliament to set aside the proposed National Liquor Policy Draft Bill.

“We made our submission on behalf of our members and we want the government to engage us more about this draft bill,” he said.

“If this bill is passed, in its current form, we are going to fight for our rights by protesting and shutting down businesses as this is the language our governments understand.”

Hlophe was speaking after the release of the survey conducted by the Gauteng Liquor Forum, Salta and the National Tourism Hospitality Association (NTHA), comprising of spaza shops, tavern and shebeen, restaurant and bottle store owners operating in townships.

The businesses said they employed almost 765 staff.

The survey asked the business owners to explain how the liquor policy and tobacco proposals would impact on their business.

Nearly 90 percent said the laws would create unnecessary problems between businesses and their patrons; 75 percent said it would increase police corruption; and 83 percent thought the laws would force them to close their businesses.

Hlophe said his organisation was going to resist laws that would harm people’s ability to support their families or that would promote illegal activities.

“We know these laws are not being created in South Africa, but in Europe,” he said. “We want to say to the government that laws that are being forced on us and not made for our people.”

The survey was undertaken in response to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies’s draft bill and Health Minister Aaron Motswaledi’s comments on the introduction of changes to tobacco legislation.

Weekend Argus