One year has passed and still no real change to prevent another Enyobeni Tavern Tragedy

In the early hours of 26 June 2022, 21 young people died in one of the most tragic alcohol harm related incidents in the history of this country. One year on still no material changes have been made to national and provincial legislation to prevent this scenario from repeating itself.

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance in South Africa (SAAPA SA) as a leading public health NGO dedicated to reducing alcohol harm in the country, at the time of the tragedy and for the 12 months that followed, lobbied the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to institute an inquiry; supported DSD to develop a response plan; implored government to adopt the Liquor Amendment Bill, and to stop the BELA Bill proposal for schools to sell alcohol as a fundraiser. We marched at SONA demanding urgent intervention to prevent alcohol sales to minors. . Our efforts have unfortunately yielded no tangible results.

Aadielah Maker-Diedericks from SAAPA SA expresses her concerns about the lack of action from government following the Enyobeni tragedy and the general youth drinking challenges in the country.

“The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance has been working since 2012 to strengthen alcohol Legislation in South Africa. Through many initiatives we have tried to demonstrate that the current levels of alcohol harm prevalent in South African communities cannot continue and we have implored government to strengthen liquor legislation by passing laws that will reduce harm and enforce existing laws related to liquor and liquor trading,” Maker-Diedericks said.

South Africa faces a myriad of health, safety and social concerns in relation to alcohol. A study commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry in 2013 estimated that the tangible and non-tangible cost of Harmful drinking is estimated to be between 10-12% of South Africa’s GDP.

“The tragic death of 21 children in a liquor retailing establishment could have been avoided if the law was upheld. Minors under the age of 18 cannot legally purchase alcohol but this is a practice that is commonplace in many South African communities. Underage drinking however is a symptom of a much larger problem and a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to addressing alcohol harm in its entirety is needed. We already have a National Liquor Policy; what is needed is to translate the policy into law, nationally and provincially,” explains Maker-Diedericks.

The lack of a coherent and coordinated policy to protect children and young people from exposure and risk from government departments is unacceptable. The lack of government response led to the death of 2more children just 6 months later again in the Eastern Cape.

On 30 June 2022 SAAPA SA marched to the offices of the South African Human Rights Commission in Braamfontein and lodged a formal complaint. While the commission’s work is ongoing, no feedback has been provided on when it will conclude its investigations and make recommendations.

As the anniversary of this tragedy approaches SAAPA SA once again calls on government to protect our minors. The 21 children who died in Scenery Park and the survivors deserve more than what has been forthcoming over the last year as do all South African children whose rights as enshrined in our constitution should provide them with safety and security.

SAAPA SA reiterates its calls to the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition to get the Liquor Amendment Bill ready to send to Parliament which can then embark on a nation-wide public participation process to debate it.

We continue to implore the Minister of Basic Education to scrap the proposal in the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill to authorise schools to raise funds by allowing alcohol to be served and sold on school premises and at school functions off school premises. The latest school to apply for liquor licence is Hoerskool Strand in the Western Cape and SAAPA SA has launched a formal objection to this as it will only contribute to the growing challenge of youth drinking.

SAAPA SA are also calling on all provinces to take urgent steps to inform the public of their right to have an effective influence over when, where and how alcohol is sold and consumed in their communities – this right is enshrined in the Constitution and in national and provincial liquor legislation, and government has a responsibility to do whatever is needed to facilitate the ability of the public to exercise that right

South Africa need a proper investigation into the establishment of a Health Promotion Development Fund (HPDF), resourced through higher excise tax on alcohol, to finance efforts by government and civil society to promote an alcohol-safer country.

Government also needs to recommit to the implementation of the recommendations of the WHO Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol (2010) and the Global Alcohol Action Plan (2022-2030) which was adopted in May last year at the WHO’s 75th World Health Assembly.

On the 25th of June SAAPA SA will be holding a youth dialogue in Scenery Park to explore possible solutions to youth drinking challenges. Members of the media are welcome to attend the details are as follows.

Date: 25 June 2023
Time: 3pm
Venue: Scenery Park Community Hall

For interviews or more info please contact SAAPA SA Communication Manager Terri-Liza Fortein 079 976 5489