Revoking liquor licence of the Enyobeni Tavern and charging the owner criminally is too little, too late

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance in SA (SAAPA SA) has noted the moves by government to revoke the liquor licence of the Enyobeni Tavern in East London and its decision to criminally charge the owners for selling alcohol to minors. However, we believe this is too little, too late. This cannot be the only action that is taken against the owner and others involved in the running of the tavern. Nor can such action be restricted to them alone. 22 young lives have been lost and we want all role players, including government institutions at various levels, to be held to account.

This incident has also amplified the urgent need for decisive action by government to reduce the scourge of alcohol-related harm in the country, once and for all. The Enyobeni 22 have been failed on so many levels and we as SAAPA SA, along with our 67 civil society Alliance Partners working in various sectors across the country, will not allow the status quo to remain, a status quo which promotes the ‘normalisation’ of alcohol use in the eyes of our children, which allows underage children access to liquor outlets contrary to the law, and which condones and encourages the excessive consumption of alcohol by young people.

It is against this backdrop that SAAPA SA is calling for the establishment of an independent national inquiry into the incident, as well as into the stalling of new legislation that would help to reduce the harmful use of alcohol; the malfunctioning of liquor boards; and the failure by government to ensure the active promotion of mechanisms for community participation in decisions affecting when, where and how alcohol is sold and consumed.

We are also considering our own legal action because we do not believe the current action taken against the Enyobeni Tavern will do anything to ensure the protection of the rights, health, safety and well-being of young people in South Africa going forward. Effective, enforceable steps must be taken to ensure that nothing like this happens again anywhere in our country. This is our minimum demand.

We are also calling for an urgent meeting between civil society and the President and other Cabinet members to demand a coordinated, national alcohol control plan and legislative framework that is in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol (2010) and the recently adopted Global Alcohol Action Plan (GAAP). We will also insist on the full participation of civil society in all stages of the development, implementation and monitoring of evidence-based liquor legislation and programming.

Tomorrow, 30 June, as Youth Month draws to a close, we will be holding a public demonstration at Constitution Hill and handing over our official complaint in this regard to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The media are invited to cover the event which will commence at 13h00 on the corner of Hoofd and Joubert Streets, Braamfontein.

For more information, live crossings  or interview requests, please contact:

Terri-Liza Fortein, SAAPA SA Communications Manager via or 079 9765 489
Maurice Smithers, SAAPA SA Director via or 082 373 7705