One more alcohol related death of a child is one too many

A total of 25 lives have been lost in the Eastern Cape in the last 13 months in circumstances where alcohol use was involved.

On 26th June last year 21 minors died at the Enyobeni Tavern and on Christmas day 2022, another 2 children died at a tavern in Hofmeyr. Yesterday (Sunday) another 17-year-old died after a pens-down drinking party in Mazamomhle F Section in East London.

This latest teenager whose life was cut short will not be the last if government at all levels does not urgently address the regulation of availability, advertising and pricing, and the enforcement of licenses especially within residential areas. The current situation is creating an environment where South African children are not being protected from alcohol harm, as our legislation stipulates.

“The unfortunate and tragic death of teenager, Thanduxolo Mcoteli supports the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance in South Africa’s (SAAPA SA) point that we cannot accept the lack of enforcement of laws around selling alcohol to minors.

No concrete impactful changes are being made to protect children from alcohol harm, by the National and Provincial government in the Eastern Cape is unacceptable.

“We have been saying without any real coordinated and evidence-based changes, we will continue to see these kinds of incidents in our communities, and we have implored government to respond and to intervene. National and provincial government’s failure to do so has now led to another death and the blame is squarely to be laid at their door,” said Aadielah Maker Diedericks from SAAPA SA.

Thanduxolo who was in grade 11 at Mzamawethu High School, deserved more from government leaders. His distraught mother is quoted in media reports as saying she cursed the pens-down parties held during the June holidays, which were claiming the lives of children. She woke up at 7am on Sunday morning to the news that her son who was not a regular consumer of alcohol had died after attending a pens-down party at a tavern.

He died in a shack fire and no foul play is expected.

SAAPA SA calls on the Eastern Cape Government and Eastern Cape Liquor Board to take immediate action to close the Tavern Thanduxolo went to and all other outlets hosting alcohol fuelled parties aimed at children under 18. The National Liquor norms and standards of 2015 clearly states children can’t enter liquor outlets or be served alcohol in them. It is quite disturbing that this kind of practice is continuing unabated.

We have Ministers responsible for youth affairs, for education, for health, for sports and culture and for liquor trading, they need to deal with this issue of illegal sale of alcohol to children and youth. They also need to attend to the lack of recreational facilities in communities now, before more children die. SAAPA SA has written various letters, held demonstrations, and attended meetings with government -but the status quo remains children are not being protected from alcohol harm and it is costing them their lives.

We cannot accept this as a norm that children are dying like this. Alcohol damages children, it impacts their physical and brain development, impairs their decision making capabilities and can result in them having substance abuse problems.

The Basic Education Minister must withdraw the proposal that schools can sell alcohol for fundraising.

The Trade and Industry Minister must fast track the Liquor Amendment Bill of 2016, which increases the age of purchase to 21 years.

The Health Minister must fast track the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill of 2013 that will ban advertising that glamourises and normalises alcohol consumption amongst young people.

The leader of our National Government Cyril Ramaphosa and the Premier of the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane cannot fold their arms any longer. They must act to ensure alcohol safer communities or have the blood of more minors on their hands.

For more information or interview requests, please contact:

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

Website: Twitter: @saapa7