[imagesource: Molly Crann]
The ban on the sale of alcohol at the start of lockdown decreased the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions, and in doing so, eased some of the pressure on the healthcare system.
Admissions increased when the ban was partially lifted in June, and again over the first weekend following the institution of alert level 2.
There was a noticeable increase in trauma-related cases, including gunshot wounds, stabbings, motor vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and some cases of gender-based violence with 85% of these alcohol-related.
We’re clearly dealing with a problem here that might have continued to go largely unnoticed if not for the pandemic, and the Western Cape government wants to do something about it.
Western Cape’s minister of community safety, Albert Fritz, says that his department has been tasked to come up with a plan to reduce violence and murder in the province, starting with an amendment to the province’s liquor act.
This is in line with Premier Alan Winde’s “Smart Interventions” aimed at reducing alcohol-related harms.
TimesLIVE with more from Fritz:
“During the lockdown, my department monitored the number of homicides, which demonstrated that at the beginning of the lockdown, the murder rate had been halved. However, as we moved into alert levels 4 and 3, the murder figures increased but then again slightly decreased as the ban on alcohol and the curfew was reinstituted,” said Fritz.
He does point out that a complete ban is not economical. Instead, he says that “the unbanning of alcohol [should] be accompanied with smart interventions”.
The 10 proposed changes to the Western Cape Liquor Authority (WLCA) regulations include:
- Permanently confiscating seized liquor after the payment of an admission of guilt fine.
- Inserting an objective test within the act to determine whether alcohol has been sold to an unlicensed outlet/individual.
- Obliging licence holders to take reasonable measures to determine that a client is of legal drinking age.
- Aligning the act with the Liquor Products Act to ensure a uniform definition of “illicit liquor”.
- Providing for a public participation process to alter existing licences.
- Expanding section 24 committee powers to hear enforcement matters.
- Expanding the capacity and availability of the Appeal Tribunal/Authority.
- Enabling the minister of community safety to prescribe by way of regulation additional and relevant information to be considered by the Liquor Licensing Tribunal or the presiding officer.
- Ensuring that a record of all liquor sales is kept by outlets and prescribe the measure of detail required.
- Limiting the delivery of more than the prescribed limit of liquor by inserting a requirement to produce the “written consent of the presiding officer”.
The idea is to crack down on the illegal sale of liquor, while keeping a careful eye on liquor outlets and establishments licensed to sell liquor.
It also looks like we might be seeing harsher punishments for selling alcohol to a minor.
Some organisations are already behind the proposed plan.
Chief executive of the Beer Association of SA, Patricia Pillay, told IOL that they’re following up on reports of alcohol outlets breaching the level 2 lockdown regulations.
…the association had committed itself to identifying establishments found breaking the law and cutting off their supply.
Pillay said beer manufacturers would request the details from municipalities and provincial liquor authorities of businesses whose licences had been revoked and would stop supplying alcohol to them.
If an amendment to the act that places stricter regulations on the distribution and consumption means that we can lower crime rates and prevent another total ban, I’m behind it.
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