20 April 2001

South Africa: Tot System Finally to Be Outlawed

Johannesburg — The notorious tot system "the payment of workers in liquor, normally cheap wine " is to be banned in the Western Cape.

The outlawing of the centuries-old tradition is part of proposed changes by the Democratic Alliance-controlled provincial government to the liquor licensing system that are aimed at bringing the 18 000 to 20 000 illegal shebeens in the Western Cape under control and to make it against the law to supply quantities of liquor to anyone who is not licensed.

The proposed changes, published in the form of a Green Paper, will grant easier access to licences for legitimate traders and could pave the way for the development of neighbourhood pubs in previously white suburbs, as is the norm internationally.

Western Cape MEC for Finance, Business Promotion and Tourism Leon Markovitz says more than 80% of liquor in South Africa is sold in unlicensed premises.

A basic objective of the new policy will be "to create a liquor licensing policy that will strive to protect the community against any abuses of alcohol. The proposal suggests that the removal of unnecessary barriers to entry will be accompanied by the imposition of strict measures against licensed traders who transgress the law " especially those who supply illegal operators or use them as 'runners' and 'fronts'."

It is also proposed that licensees sign a code of conduct in which they agree not to sell liquor to minors "unless accompanied by parent or legal guardian" and to "discourage the rapid and/or excessive consumption of alcohol beverages and will not allow promotions with this objective".

They will have to ensure that food and non-alcoholic drinks are available, "... guard against the supply of alcohol beverages to intoxicated persons", "... not tolerate disorderly, offensive or criminal behaviour on the part of customers in [their] establishment" and "... ensure that activities on the premises will not result in undue offence, annoyance, disturbance, noise or inconvenience to people who reside, work or worship in the vicinity of the premises".

Markovitz says there will be a two- to three-month public consultation process before a White Paper is finalised and he hopes the new liquor policy will be law by the end of the year. Extensive negotiations have already been conducted with shebeen associations, which welcome the new policy.

The outlawing of the tot system " "It will be an offence for an employer to supply liquor to an employee in lieu of wages," the Green Paper states " is long overdue. It will also be "an offence for an employer to deduct from the salary of an employee any sum owing in respect of the purchase of any liquor by the employee either from the employer or from a third party".

Another major departure is the heavy penalties for supplying illegal liquor.

These include the confiscation of vehicles, property and stock. Similar penalties will be imposed on landlords who knowingly allow their property to be used for illegal trading.

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