Cheers to safer drinking

The Soul City Institute officially launched an ambitious national campaign on March 3 to change the way South Africans drink.

Supported by a range of social partners, including the Department of Health, loveLife, the Medical Research Council and the South African Liquor Traders’ Association, the Phuza Wize Drink Safe Live Safe campaign is aimed at creating safe drinking spaces and making schools alcohol-free zones in an attempt to reduce the high level of alcohol-related violence in society.

In addition, Phuza Wize wants to ensure that South Africans understand the role of alcohol in new HIV infections, saying people are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour if they are drunk.

“The literature shows us that a very high proportion of violent incidents are perpetrated by people who are drunk and the victims are often drunk too,” said Dr Sue Goldstein, a senior executive at Soul City.

Research has shown that the majority of perpetrators and victims of violence in South Africa are men, therefore Phuza Wize will primarily target young men aged 15 to 35.

“International experience indicates that changing drinking environments and reducing the availability of alcohol have the effect of reducing incidents of violence.

“The campaign is working with many partners to achieve safer social spaces. This means working with taverns and shebeens to make them safer according to a 10-point plan,” said Aadielah Maker, a Soul City senior executive.

According to Soul City, 10 criteria must be met by establishments to be called safe drinking places.
Owners or workers at the establishment should never sell alcohol to intoxicated people, children under 18 years or visibly pregnant women.

The campaign also advocates sensible drinking behaviour, such as proper hydration and eating food before drinking.

For this reason, it requires establishments selling alcohol also to sell food and non-alcoholic drinks and to make water available.

Research into the environment in which people drink has shown that establishments that are well lit, less crowded and have a clearly defined serving area are less likely to be linked with the violent crime associated with alcohol abuse.

The Phuza Wize campaign strongly advocates that establishments conform to these standards and that there are no more than three people per square metre.

It advocates that drinking establishments display safe sex messages, provide condoms and that staff actively discourage drinking and driving.

The social fallout of having children exposed to heavy drinkers is a growing concern and the Phuza Wize campaign has proposed a new set of enforceable opening and closing times for places that sell alcohol:

  • 2pm to 8pm (Sundays);

  • 1pm to 8pm (Mondays to Thursdays); and

  • 1pm to midnight (Fridays and Saturdays).

Community participation is a cornerstone of the campaign and a hotline number has been set up so that patrons and/or community members can SMS reports of non-compliance.

Soul City has urged the government to increase community input on liquor licence allocation and says there should be stricter regulation on where outlets are situated, paying special attention to the proximity of places of learning.

Given the prevalence of drunk driving, Soul City has called for an increase in random breath testing of drivers, allowing police to test pedestrians for alcohol misuse and a graduation policy for first-time drivers who will not be allowed any alcohol in their bloodstream for three years after they pass their driver’s test.

The campaign is being run through the Soul City and Soul Buddyz television programmes on SABC 1, Soul City radio series on community radio stations, as well as with materials such as booklets and fact sheets, which can be obtained at www.soulcity.org.

The campaign is active on the ground in 10 learning communities, in which training workshops on community mapping, understanding the policy process and making submissions on policies that relate to alcohol are just some of the activities that are being carried out.

Community policing forums, media groups and advocacy groups have also been set up by communities involved in the campaign

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