The South African alcohol industry has committed R150-million to direct harm-reduction programmes over the coming year.
The investment is to focus on upscaling existing programmes and finding new, innovative measures to deal with key areas of concern, including drinking and driving or walking, binge or underage drinking, as well as gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide.
During the recent ban on the sale of alcohol, the industry committed to doing more to encourage consumers to drink responsibly.
In terms of drinking and driving or walking, the industry said it would support legislative and enforcement measures to reduce drinking and driving or walking by capacitating law enforcement with resources to effectively enforce laws, and by partnering with retailers regarding interventions in high-risk areas.
Alcohol Evidence Centres that will have the capacity to process breath alcohol testing and immediately make available results for prosecution purposes is one of the measures to be put in place.
In addition, the industry, working with retail partners and taverns in particular, will also introduce a patrol/buddy system to walk home intoxicated customers to curb drinking and walking incidents.
The industry says it will also ramp up its consumer education campaigns on binge drinking, which will include responsible messaging, as well as defining drinking guidelines to influence behaviour.
Various brands have introduced reduced alcohol products and 0% alcohol products to encourage responsible drinking habits.
Further, the industry is in discussion with the retail sector to explore the implementation of an identification verification system in all retail outlets (on- and off-consumption), as well as the extension of the underage drinking education programme.
This programme was developed for engagement in school environments using digital platforms so that information can be disseminated to community-based youth organisations.
Meanwhile, in terms of GBV and femicide, the industry says it is committed to partnering with government and civil society in addressing the issue of GBV and femicide.
One of the industry members, the South African Breweries, has launched a GBV WhatsApp helpline through its GBV social awareness campaign #NoExcuse. This is a safe reporting platform for anyone who is a victim of GBV providing for referral to a counselling support service.
Dialogues with tavern owners are currently under way to explore the best measures and the role that outlet owners can play in an effort to curb GBV. This process will also be used to facilitate dialogue with government on how the industry can provide support with the implementation of the national strategic plan on GBV and femicide.
In addition, since the outbreak of Covid-19, businesses in the liquor value chain have already made investments in direct support to the health system including provision of more than 200 000 l of pure alcohol for the production of sanitisers, the supply of finished sanitisers and other personal protective equipment (PPE) material.
The industry is making a further commitment of providing R15.5-million worth of PPE to hospitals in the four most affected provinces, namely Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.
Alcohol industry spokesperson Sibani Mngadi says “the industry appreciates the opportunity to trade again” from August 18.
“We call on the traders and consumers alike to abide by all the lockdown rules and make sure that their drinking occasions do not contribute to the spread of infections and unnecessary burden on the health system,” Mngadi says.
He adds that the industry has “a collective responsibility to protect our livelihoods as various players in the alcohol value chain. Consumers equally have a responsibility to behave appropriately and not expose themselves and others to unnecessary harm and potential infections.”