Limpopo Government’s move to reduce alcohol harm is a step in the right direction

Come 1 August Limpopo liquor consumers wanting to sit down, and drink will be hard pressed to find a legally operating establishment to consume alcohol at after midnight. This move by the Limpopo government in the interest of reducing alcohol harm needs to be commended and is in line with global alcohol harm reduction measures advocated by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The move by the Limpopo Provincial Government demonstrates that alcohol legislation can be strengthened in the interest of public health if the political will exists.

MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism in Limpopo Rodgers Monama has led the process to strengthen the province’s liquor legislation and put into action the WHO’s recommendations for reducing alcohol harm.

 It is an attempt to align the Limpopo province’s trading times to the National Norms and Standards of 2015 which sets out hours for on-consumption outlets, which is Monday to Sunday 10am to 12 midnight for business zones excluding nightclubs, and for residential areas it is even more strict, Monday to Saturday 10am to 9pm, and Sundays 10am to 5pm excluding hotels and nightclubs.

 This move therefore is long overdue. For too long provinces have allowed alcohol trading especially in communities ignoring the existing policies of the country.

The WHO Global Strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol (2010) promotes three ‘best buys’ to reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol harm – reducing alcohol availability, increasing the cost of alcohol, and limiting or banning alcohol advertising.

In 2022 a man died at Mashamba Village, in Limpopo, after participating in a drinking competition for a cash prize of R200. Alcohol is also a driver for GBV and sexual assault. According to Southern African Police Services SAPS alcohol and drug-related offences in resulted in a total of 227 confirmed murders, 228 attempted murders, seventy-one cases of rape, and 2 604 cases of assault GBH. These figures represent the cases reported at taverns, shebeens, pubs, bars, and night clubs. Between January and March 2023 nationwide.

MEC Monama has been noticeably clear and rightfully unapologetic about the new law.

He told the media alcohol was a contributing factor in incidents of gender- based violence, child abuse, community instability, trauma incidents rape and other crimes in the province. Earlier this month the Limpopo Province authorities also arrested 600 people as part of its operation Kukula, 38 of those arrested were under the influence of alcohol while driving.

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance in South Africa (SAAPA SA) gave the evidence-based policy change to reduce harm and protect South Africans the thumbs up.

Aadielah Maker Diedericks from SAAPA SA said during the covid pandemic when there were partial and complete bans on the sale of alcohol, we saw how the incidents in trauma units decreased. “The Limpopo Government has taken a completely rational and well-informed step to save lives and money while improving the public health of residents.” Maker Diedericks said.

“As the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance, we are of course in favour of this move, and we wish to reaffirm that Government should put the interests of the people first. While the industry is displeased with this step and has bemoaned its impact on the economy, Government should always act in the best interest of the people they serve, and this will improve the quality of life of people living in Limpopo.”

Diedericks also called for the Government to have a more synergised approach to combating alcohol harm.

“We have been saying that within the government all entities need to move together to strengthen alcohol legislation and reduce alcohol harm. At the moment we have this very beneficial law being passed in Limpopo, but at a national level we have the Basic Education Laws Amendments Bill (BELA) proposing alcohol be sold in schools,” Maker Diedericks added.

While Mkhavela Masingita,68 from Shigamani Village in Limpopo has welcomed the new law.

She said: “As a community leader who is always working to advance the well-being of people in this area, this is very good news.”

She explained that the new law will mean all night drinking will decrease dramatically along with the problems it causes.

“People will have less time to drink alcohol during the week and cause less accidents and fights. People are also losing jobs and missing school from drinking all night. So, this will help with all these things,” Masingita said.

Professor Susan Goldstein, public health specialist at the SAMRC Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science-PRICELESS SA said it was especially important for the government to control alcohol in view of the extensive harm it causes to health and society.

For more information or interview requests, please contact:

Terri-Liza Fortein, Communications, SAAPA SA or 079 9765 489 or SAAPA SA

Website:  Twitter: @saapa7