South Africa already has too many challenges related to alcohol harm we do not need beer on our food shop shelves, it is not convent, it is harmful. The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance in South Africa will strongly oppose the Beer Association of South Africa’s efforts to change the National Liquor Act and sell its harmful products in our food shops.
In October Health Minister Joe Phaahla met with the health MECs from all provinces to discuss how his department would deal with budget cuts from National Treasury.
Treasury announced a budget reduction in the region of R1.645 billion for the health department, a matter of grave concern for Phaahla who is tasked with delivering health care services to as many as 45 million South Africans or about 82 out of every 100 South Africans.
A tall order indeed. So, he has identified the need for creative and cost-effective ways to do more with less to meet up to his department’s commitments.
“There are continuous discussions between the health sector and National Treasury to find means to cushion the effects of the budget cuts.” The Health Minister was quoted as saying in a news article by media 24.
As the minister and the MECs strategized and looked at what costs most, trauma injuries related to alcohol abuse were a significant issue identified across the entire country, especially over weekends.
Leading Phaahla to issue an appeal to citizens to stop “drinking sprees” over weekends.
South Africa rates 5th in the world in the amount of alcohol consumption among drinkers, in addition alcohol use plays a role in about half of all non-natural deaths in the country.
Currently South Africans who drink have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Statistics show that about one third of people in South Africa aged 15 and above drink. However, of those who drink, two thirds drink to the point of intoxication (i.e., binge drink), causing harm to themselves and others. This practice also diverts government resources away from development priorities like managing alcohol related harm through policing, trauma admissions, social and disability grants and more.
In addition, Alcohol is a drug, albeit a legal one. Alcohol depresses the brain and slows down major functions such as breathing, heart rate, and thinking. Alcohol is also a carcinogen and related to at least seven different cancers.
It is within this environment that BASA has called to increase alcohol availability by selling beer in South Africa’s food shops.
The association has called for the Liquor Act to be changed to allow beer into food shops where South African families including minors get their groceries.
In its current form the Act only allows for wine to be sold in food shops.
The members of BASA are the main beer manufacturers in the country namely, CBASA (Craft Brewers Association South Africa), Heineken South Africa and South African Breweries. The structure according to its official website was established to “create a unified voice on issues affecting the beer industry and enhance beer culture in South Africa.”
The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance strongly objects to beers on our food shops shelves and will be hosting live demonstrations, launching a petition and writing to the Minister of DTI Ebrahim Patel who the National Liquor Act sits with to reject this preposterous call from the beer association.
Aadielah Maker Diedricks from the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance said: “We do not need beer in our food shops, there are enough places to buy beer.
According to global trends, the government is supposed to be decreasing access to alcohol by limiting availability in the interest of public health. South Africa already has a disproportionate number of outlets for the population.”
She added that supporting the move to allow beers into our food shops is supporting increased harm.
“If South Africans accept beers in supermarkets, they are accepting increased levels of gender-based violence; other interpersonal violence; child abuse and neglect. It will also mean more car crashes and increased school and university dropouts, as well as unsafe sex, leading to teenage pregnancies and STI/HIV transmission.” Maker Diedericks added.
The Southern African Alcohol policy Alliance also finds the promotion of the concept of taverns of the future by the Gauteng Premier, Panyaza Lesufi problematic. As Premier and also in his previous positions as MEC Lesufi was very clear on the challenges alcohol harm poses in our communities. He is a role model to many, and his job is to put people before profits. As young people previously aspired to go to his schools of specialisation or be part of his Tshepo 1 million projects they will now aspire to go to these taverns of the future. Politicians including but not limited to Lesufi must think clearly about the message they send about alcohol and remember they serve the people who put them in office and their priority is ensuring the public health of all South Africans.
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