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Parliament Gives Green Light to Liquor Products Bill

June 7, 2021

Parliament

Parliament has passed the Liquor Products Amendment Bill and sent it to president Ramaphosa for assent.

President Ramaphosa sent the bill back to parliament for reconsideration in June 2020.

The bill was passed by parliament and sent to the president for assent in June 2018.

The national assembly passed the bill and sent it to the national council of provinces for concurrence in October 2017.

The bill was tabled in parliament in July 2016.

The proposed legislation seeks to amend the Liquor Products Act in order to:


• insert certain definitions and to amend and delete others;
• provide for the renaming and reconstitution of the Wine and Spirit Board and to limit its powers;
• provide for requirements regarding beer, traditional African beer and other fermented beverages;
• repeal a provision in respect of the authorisations regarding certain alcoholic products;
• empower the Minister to designate a person to issue export certificates;
• align certain provisions with the constitution;
• extend the ministers power to make regulations;
• provide gender-equal terminology; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

According to an earlier statement from the presidency, the bill should have been referred to the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) as the bill contains a new section on requirements regarding traditional African beer.

“The President’s view is based on the fact that traditional beer is an intrinsic part of a number of cultural practices. Customary practices require that the production and consumption of such beverages be effected in a particular manner.”

The president holds the view that the bill will regulate how traditional beer is produced thereby affecting its production, distribution and consumption.

In March 2021, the bill was reclassified by the Joint Tagging Mechanism in parliament as a section 75 bill and as a bill falling within the ambit of section 18(1) of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act.

It was also referred to the NHTL for comment.

In a recent briefing, the agriculture, land reform and rural development department provided responses to comments made by the NHTL.

In the briefing, the department pointed out that the reference in clause 1 to the definition of “traditional African beer” as referring to a product which meets requirements specified in section 6C is incorrect and should be amended to section 6B.

Other comments include:


• Traditional African beer definition is based on existing definitions in the Liquor Acts (Act 27 of 1989 and Act 59 of 2003). Provision is made for the addition of different ingredients by way of secondary legislation (regulation). This provides flexibility.
• The object of the bill is to include traditional African beer, produced for commercial purposes, under the Liquor Products Act. The production in terms of customary law or customs of traditional communities will not be affected by the provisions of the Bill.
• This will make sure traditional African beer, produced for sale to the public, is safe for human consumption, safe and hygienic containers are used, labels are not misleading and provide sufficient information to the consumer, e.g. alcohol content and health warnings.
• Traditional communities will still be able to make traditional African beer for private consumption and customary use in any way they see fit, including using different ingredients. The responsibility for such products lies with the individual.
• Although there is an existing broad definition for traditional African beer under the Liquor Act, the quality and food safety of traditional African beer produced for sale is not prescribed, controlled or enforced by any government department.
• In principle, traditional African beer powder should not be excluded as the sale of beer powder to children under the age of 18 is a problem. Excluding traditional African beer powder will have the unintended consequence that the powder (that becomes alcohol when water is added) can be sold in cafes and any shop with easy access to children and vulnerable communities.
• If Parliament, however, agrees with the NHTL to exclude traditional African beer from the bill, then traditional African beer powder should also be excluded as a result.
• The department recommends approval of the bill in its current format – therefore include a definition for traditional African beer and traditional African beer powder.

In a statement, the committee chairperson, Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, pointed out that 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”.

“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”, he said.

Parliamentary legal advisors had earlier pointed out that the bill “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” and, therefore, complies with the principle of legal certainty.

The portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development adopted the remitted bill in its current form last week.

The national assembly gave the green light to the bill yesterday.