The provincial government has proposed significant changes to the Western Cape Liquor Act. Premier Alan Winde announced this during a special address in the Western Cape Legislature on Thursday, October 22.
The changes proposed will make it difficult to purchase alcohol with a high alcohol percentage, which according to Winde, will in turn help to combat the “war raging in our communities, especially against our women and children.’’
The Premier said that the province must confront and address its “deadly relationship with alcohol”.
“Our department of health’s data showed that when alcohol was banned during the Hard Lockdown and subsequent restrictions, trauma cases in our hospitals came down notably.”
“As soon as the sale of alcohol was allowed again, the number of trauma cases increased almost by the same percentage. The causality is as clear as day,” said Winde.
To this end, the Western Cape Government wants to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol, which will be “fast-tracked”.
“I can announce that we have now put ’per-unit-of-alcohol’ pricing firmly on the table for consideration. This will make it more expensive to buy alcoholic beverages with higher alcohol percentages; an approach which evidence suggests can be effective in preventing binge drinking,” said Winde.
Research indicates that 10% increase in the price of alcohol will reduce alcohol consumption by about 4% among moderate drinkers but only by up to 2.5% among binge drinkers and up to 2% among other heavy drinkers, according to a UCT study.
The study refers to Scotland, as a country who have introduced an MUP for alcohol to reduce abusive drinking, saying:
“South Africa’s situation is at least as bad as Scotland’s. Although only about one third of South African adults say they have ever consumed alcohol, nearly half of those that do, drink at dangerous levels.
“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), South Africa scores a four out of five for our “pattern of drinking”, beaten only by heavy-drinking Russia and Ukraine,” said the study.
The higher the “pattern score”, the greater the alcohol-attributable burden of disease. An additional score of 5 was allocated to indicate countries, where more than [two thirds] of the alcohol is consumed in heavy drinking occasions, according to WHO.
Winde said that although the ‘causality is as clear as day’, the Western Cape Government cannot ban alcohol as this would be an infringement on people’s rights and would be detrimental to the economy.
“But we do need to fundamentally change this deadly relationship if we are to prevent violence in our communities, and this can be done with smart interventions,” he said.
The Western Cape Government will also consider implementing stricter times for the sale of alcohol that will persist beyond the National State of Disaster regulations.
The tougher rules must be matched with incentives for liquor outlets who do follow the rules, says the Premier.
The local government also wants to eradicate the illegal sale of alcohol and will make it easier for unlicensed liquor vendors to become compliant.
“We must have the courage to get the job done on alcohol, people. This will require both urgent interventions immediately and a medium-term response.”