South Africans are said to consume about five billion litres of alcohol a year. This is according to the Medical Research Council and from these figures gazetted in the public debate during the National Liquor Policy, minister of trade and industry Rob Davies plans to increase the legal drinking age from 18 to 21.
However, director of Liquor Law Services at Cluver Markotter Attorneys, Danie Cronjé, says this will only pose a safety hazard as people will resort to purchasing liquor illegally.
"Increasing the legal age at which alcohol can be purchased, on the face of it, may seem like a good thing, but it means someone who can leave school, can get married, get a job, own a car, etc., cannot consume or purchase alcohol.
"That will just play into the hands of the illegal outlets, because that person who would normally have bought liquor at a licensed outlet would now have to go to an illegal outlet, or even have to go to drink at an illegal club if he/she does not want to be prosecuted," he says.
In addition to the minister’s proposal, tavern owners might soon be liable for an intoxicated patrons’ behaviour since the beer manufacturer, distributor and owner of drinking establishments will all bear responsibility for the harm and damage caused by the drunk driver.
Cronjé, however, says this will be hard to pull off. "I am not sure it will benefit either (tavern owners and patrons). Owners don’t have control over their customers’ alcohol and won’t know exactly how much liquor the person would have consumed," he explains.
The proposal includes issues like liquor premises, which should be located at least 500m away from schools, places of worship and rehabilitation or treatment centres and that liquor licences should not be issued to places near petrol stations or places situated near public transport.