Proposed liquor legislation seeks to jointly hold bars and restaurants liable for criminal offences perpetrated by drunk customers. Picture: David Ritchie

Johannesburg - The ANC has backtracked on a draft bill calling for the banning of alcohol advertising after intensive lobbying by the liquor industry.

Instead the party is now calling for strict regulation of alcohol outlets, bottle stores and shebeens, a move that is likely to anger many township entrepreneurs who have equally protested that this threatened the sustainability of their businesses.

In its discussion documents ahead of the national general council in October, it is now proposed the draft law should be converted into a money bill where a 2.5 percent levy is imposed that will support health promotion campaigns, sport, arts and culture as well as educational programmes relating to the dangers of alcohol abuse.

“If the draft bill proceeds in its current form it is inevitable that there will be devastating consequences for the sport and recreation sector,” say the policy discussion documents.

“The alcohol industry, historically very supportive of sports through generous sponsorship initiatives, will undoubtedly withdraw this support when the marketing benefits associated with sponsoring sport cease with the sponsorship deals.”

Joe Maila, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, which has been driving the process of the alcohol advertising ban bill, said on Friday that the impact assessment report would be presented to the inter-ministerial committee headed by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

The controversial draft bill has stalled even before it could reach Parliament since first approved by the cabinet in 2013.

The ANC says it is essential that a contingency plan is put in place. It also calls for an budget allocation to sport from the existing Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) fund.

“Anticipating the considerable loss of revenue that will inevitably follow the promulgation of the ban on alcohol advertising, it is proposed that the government departments negatively impacted by the new regulation be compensated through this fund that is already in existence. A 2 percent levy is suggested.”

However, the party says the Department of Health must resolve urgently the dysfunctional National Forensic Chemistry Laboratory that compromises the state’s ability to provide the justice system with blood alcohol results needed as evidence of drunken driving.

“The sub-committee needs to advise the ANC about socially-acceptable use of alcohol,” reads the documents.

“The ANC Youth League must play a leadership role in the fight against drug and alcohol abuse and gangsterism by organising youth camps involving affected youth.”

Mbuyiselo Botha, activist with Sonke Gender Justice Network, says the recent death of eight teenagers in a Cape Town club was proof that the monitoring and enforcement of regulations related to alcohol sale and use has been virtually non- existent.

“You simply have to look at the time when most violence against women and children is committed when alcohol is involved if you don’t believe me,” he says.

“It (violence) happens more often during odd hours of the morning because there is no enforcement of the law.”

Botha adds that young and under-age youth go in and out of taverns, pubs and bars almost with impunity. “The enforcement is lacking because alcohol is considered a social drink. The laws are not enforced because most people see alcohol drinking as socially acceptable,” he explained.

Sinethemba Zonke, a market research consultant with Africapractice, said on Friday: “It seems the ANC has been listening to the calls for caution by the industry, particularly on how the alcohol ban may do more harm than good. Perhaps it would be the act of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.”

He said efforts by the sector had fallen on the right ears, particularly among those with an eye on the economy and government revenue within the party.

“As the NGC document suggests, the party may be looking for some form of middle ground in terms of some sort of levy.

“This will be ring-fenced for the use of funding health promotion campaigns, sports, culture and programmes against alcohol abuse,” he said.

“An argument would likely be made by the industry that plenty of funding already goes into such efforts, through the programmes in the ARA, and the government receives plenty of tax revenue from the industry to support these programmes.”

Saturday Star