Gauteng Liquor Act
The Gauteng Liquor Act draft, introduced to the Gauteng Legislature last month to propose an amendment to the 2003 Liquor Act, has caused a stir among businesses and consumers alike. The new Gauteng by-law, planned to be implemented by June, is expected to ban the selling of alcohol on Sundays at all establishments in the province where alcohol is consumed on the premises. According to the proposed bill, this will include liquor trading in restaurants, sports facilities (sport clubs), pubs, shebeens, taverns, theatres and function venues.
Many of these businesses start selling alcohol from 12:00, but r est r i c t ed t r ading hours i n Gauteng may soon see them only permitted to start after 14:00 and until a set time in the evening. Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Qedani Mahlangu, has been reported in the media as saying these tighter alcohol regulations have been proposed as a means of improving the quality of life of people living next to shebeens in townships.
Similarly, the Western Cape Liquor Act was implemented at the end of last month as a means of curbing alcohol abuse and vio- lence in that province. This Act prohibits the sale of alcohol on Sundays and after 18:00 on Mondays to Saturdays, except if an establishment has applied for and received an exemption. This has raised concern among liquor-trading businesses that more liquor will now be sold at illegal outlets.
The KwaZulu-Natal government is reportedly planning to do the opposite by allowing liquor trade on Sundays. One of the reasons given for this include countering the trade of illegal alcohol.
Leon Louw, executive director of the Free Market Foundation, says the proposed changes for Gauteng have left him wondering “if Verwoerd’s ghost occupied the minds of Gauteng legislators.”
“What they have in mind are black people. They don’t have in mind white people living in Bryanston who they think are going to abuse liquor. They have in mind that black South Africans aren’t responsible enough to be given the freedom to decide when and where they drink alcohol,” Louw says. “I’m fascinated by the thinking that people are intelligent enough to vote for you, but too stupid to decide how to live their lives. This is weird and an obvious contradiction.”
New restrictions on the legal alcohol trade are bound to boost the existing underground alcohol economy, similar to when the shebeen culture grew during
apartheid. White people would break racial barriers by buying alcohol from shebeens on Sundays, remembers Louw, a former lawyer who specialised in liquor laws in the Sixties. Then there’s the effect on the tourism industry. Louw says the proposed changes in Gauteng would put emerging black-owned alcohol traders out of business on an unprecedented scale and result in job losses.
Will the new Gauteng law actually reduce alcohol consumption? Not likely, says Louw. Like what happened with tobacco legislation, attempts at curbing consumption might just lead to further alcohol abuse. Instead of putting in place prohibition laws mimicking apartheid-era legislation, Louw argues, consumption could be curbed through education and persuasion; by trusting people and treating them like adults.