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SAAPA Seminar on Alcohol Policy in South Africa

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) hosted a seminar (19-20 February 2018) on the issue of the marketing of liquor in South Africa and other liquor-related policy issues. SAAPA-SA is the South African chapter of the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance, a regional body comprising eight Southern African countries and working to harmonise and accelerate alcohol policy development in the region.

The People’s Health Movement South Africa (PHM-SA) participated in this seminar. Robust discussion took place on the following issues:

  • The delayed release of the draft of the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill. The Bill, put forward by the Department of Health, proposes a complete ban on all liquor advertising and sponsorships (except at the point of sale), in much the same way that a ban on the marketing of tobacco was legislated back in 1999. It was signed off by Cabinet for public consultation in 2013 and has still not been released because it has been subjected to two Regulatory Impact Assessments and a Socio-Economic Impact Assessment. The understanding is that strong industry lobbying has blocked progress on this Bill.
  • An Amendment to the National Liquor Act was proposed in 2016 which introduced a wide range of restrictions on the sale and consumption of liquor, including the raising of the age of consent to 21, extending liability of those who sell liquor for any health or social consequences, and mandating a 500m radius zone around educational and religious institutions. However, the Liquor Act amendments have much more limited restrictions on advertising than the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill. The Liquor Act is a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Bill. The DTI has been quite supportive of measures to limit harm from alcohol and are said to be supportive of the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill as well.
  • The pros and cons of a SAAPA campaign calling for a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport were discussed in some detail. SAAPA will go ahead in exploring the feasibility of such a campaign and PHM will be invited to participate.

In 2016, PHM-SA hosted a successful public meeting on the National Liquor Amendment Bill. Communities were very vocal about wanting a meaningful say about the location and hours of shebeens in their areas, and in controlling the harms from alcohol that arise from local distribution.

PHM-SA can play an important role in educating and mobilising healthcare and concerned organisation partners, as well as our broader membership in this important struggle.

The seminar therefore agreed that PHM-SA should work with communities based in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth to host a conversation that expresses support for government to introduce legislation that restricts alcohol trading and promotion, and that seeks to protect and promote health.

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