New Liquor Bill outlaws 'dop' system

Parliament has adopted new liquor legislation under which companies must include plans in their registration for combating alcohol abuse and which outlaws the dop system — the part-payment of wages in alcohol.

The law also imposes limitations on liquor advertising, particularly when it targets minors, as well as the supply of liquor to minors. It prohibits the sale of dangerous concoctions like skokiaan.

The relatively smooth passage of the Liquor Bill through the National Assembly this week (only the Democratic Alliance voted against the legislation) is a far cry from the controversy that marred the first draft.

The initial Bill’s ban on “vertical integration” of manufacturing, distribution and retailing was harshly criticised for effectively forcing liquor manufacturers to sell off their distribution sections.

Earlier this year SABMiller said implementing this structure would cost consumers between R250-million and R550-million, while the required infrastructure would come with an additional R600-million price tag.

After two months of consultations, the three-tier system was dropped. The legislation now allows companies to register separately as manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Registration is handled by the national government, while micro-manufacturers and retailers such as shebeens will be regulated by provincial governments. It is estimated that the provinces will have to bring into the legal fold about 200 000 shebeens countrywide .

Although some provinces have drafted their own liquor laws, most have held back on legislation, pending finalisation of the national law. Minister of Trade and Industry Alec Erwin said emphasis would be placed on liquor companies’ commitment to black economic empowerment and to fighting alcohol abuse.

Through the registration requirements, the government would be able to monitor the impact of the new law on the number of new entries into the liquor industry, and on ownership diversity and employment.

Initially tabled in 1998, the law was revised after the Constitutional Court rejected certain aspects relating to the division of regulatory powers between national and provincial governments.

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