South Africa: Media Statement – Agriculture Committee Adopts Liquor Products Amendment Bill
The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development considered the input from the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) on the Liquor Products Amendment Bill, which was introduced in 2016 and passed by Parliament in 2018. The committee further received responses to the NHTL’s submission from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and input from Parliament’s Legal Services.
The Bill went through all the legislative processes in the two parliamentary Houses during the fifth Parliament, until it was referred to the President for assent. The President then returned the passed Bill, due to reservations that the NHTL was not consulted for input in line with Section 18 of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act of 2003.
The Chairperson of the committee, Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, said the issues before the committee relate to the inclusion of traditional African beer and its definition in the Bill, as well as issues related to quality, control and the regulation of the alcohol content.
Inkosi Mandela raised the concern that there are persistent issues regarding the sale of alcohol products to school children and the sale of traditional African beer powder in shops in rural areas is rampant, with devastating consequences at times.
The chairperson went further to say: “We have an obligation to protect vulnerable groups, especially children in rural areas, and to prevent their exposure to any product that could lead to mental impairment, inebriation and other forms of behaviour that heighten the risk of physical and sexual abuse. We must protect our children and limit their exposure to harmful substances.”
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa protects and preserves the culture, traditions and linguistic rights of communities. However, it also appeals to our higher conscience and out of concern for preserving children and protecting them from the unintended consequences of alcohol consumption, hence the inclusion of traditional African beer, which is already included in the Liquor Act of 1989, that is sold and produced for sale in the Liquor Products Amendment Bill.
The committee received a legal opinion from the Parliamentary legal advisor, who assured the committee that the NHTL’s concerns are already catered for in the long title of the principal Act that is being amended by the Bill, as it does not apply to traditional African beer made for personal consumption or customary practices, but seeks to regulate traditional African beer that is sold and produced for sale. The amendments relating to composition in respect of alcohol content of more than 0.5 per cent also applies to liquor products, including traditional African beer, that will be sold and produced for sale. The Bill therefore complies with the principle of legal certainty.
The committee today adopted the Bill after the President’s reservations on the referral of the Bill to the NHTL have been complied with. The Bill will now be referred to the National Assembly.