The proposed liquor bill would not only hurt the economy, but have little effect on alcohol abuse, and it would make it more difficult to prevent minors from drinking, the Democratic Alliance has warned.
The DA said yesterday that while it appreciated that alcohol abuse was a serious problem and cost the country billions, the draft bill in its current form was not a step in the right direction.
It proposes that no new licences be issued within 500 metres of schools, places of worship, recreational facilities, rehabilitation or treatment centres, residential areas, public institutions and similar amenities.
DA MP Dean Macpherson said the tabled law proposal, which is the work of the department of trade and industry, was not the answer to the problem.
Macpherson said if the bill should become law, constitutional hiccups between the powers of the provinces and national government to grant and regulate licences would result.
The bill would seem to infringe on provincial legislative mandates and may fall foul of legislation already in place, Macpherson said.
“Provincial liquor regulators are better placed to design context-sensitive restrictions for each new licence application, instead of an arbitrary national rule,” he said.
“In addition, such a provision would have profound unintended consequences.
“In metropolitan areas, one would struggle to find any location that does not contravene this provision,” said Macpherson.
This would prove hugely problematic for the local hospitality industry. For example, no new restaurants would be allowed to open in the V&A Waterfront, the portal to the likes of a tourist destination such as Robben Island.
Other recreational activity-based companies, such as those providing harbour tours, would also suffer, the DA member warned the Assembly. Raising the drinking age from 18 to 21 would have the opposite effect of eliminating underage drinking, he said.
Macpherson said this would drive the illegal trade of liquor and underage drinking underground, and exacerbate the problems. It would criminalise what was normal and acceptable behaviour, while those who abused alcohol would continue to do so regardless, he said.
Macpherson indicated that the ability to apply the new legislation was also not in place due to insufficient enforcement capacity.
“The DA contends that efforts to boost current enforcement capacity, within the existing legislative context, should remain the primary objective,” he said.