Botswana: Kgatleng Cllrs Express Mixed Feelings About Liquor Act Review

Mochudi — Kgatleng District councillors have expressed mixed reactions on the review process of the Liquor Act of 2003 as presented by Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Mr Mmusi Kgafela on Thursday.

Minister Kgafela engaged councillors virtually during a full council sitting to gather their thoughts about the the law that regulates sale of liquor.

The 2003 Liquor Act was enacted to comprehensively regulate trade in liquor to curb ills and harms associated with excessive alcohol consumption and/or abuse as well as to reduce proliferation of liquor outlets.

The aim of the consultation was to make alcohol consumption more liberal and part of the discussion included to request that some business outlets that were located plots before enactment of the act be exempted from the 500 meter required away from schools, churches and highway.

The current requirement stipulates that bar liquor, liquor depot, club liquor, discotheque/night club and temporary liquor be placed 500 metres away from a school, highway, major road or church.

Councillors argued that the 500m distance away from premises such as churches, highways or schools would be unfair to traditional liquor outlets that were established long before the act. Instead, they supported that the requirement be considered for proximity to schools.

They were of the view that the requirement should, therefore, apply to proximity to schools only to facilitate liquor business start-ups and protection of students from alcohol consumption especially during the current COVID-19 situation whereby schools operated on shift basis.

Councillors also condemned the idea to increase access to alcohol by allowing business outlets such as fuel stations and supermarkets to sell liquor, stating that the move would displace the traditional liquor outlets, whose primary business was liquor.

They also argued that accessibility could be increased by prolonging trading hours, rather than expanding the scope to include businesses that had a wide range of products such as supermarkets and fuel stations.

Furthermore, they suggested that the move to introduce soundproof in liquor outlets to control noise pollution would be too expensive and therefore stated that instead, sound should be discouraged at all costs and that businesses should only concentrate on selling their products.

Some supported the idea to increase liquor outlets in the form of taverns to increase accessibility.

Minister Kgafela stated that the review process was important because government recognised the economic significance of alcohol industry.

"Alcohol does not only provide source of employment but, among others, continues to provide education sponsorship to some members of the community and as much as it has advantages and disadvantages, it is therefore important to strike a balance between all the factors when coming up with laws regulating it," he stated.

Mr Kgafela also stated that liquor outlets provided form of entertainment that was regulated by other statutes allowed under the Liquor Act such as betting games, pool tables, snookers, and darts which were under the Gambling Act, which should be looked into.

Therefore, he stated that there should be a requirement for the licensee to have a separate gambling licence to provide for such.

Furthermore, he stated that there was need to increase the list of auxiliary products to be sold in liquor outlets such as ice cubes and condoms and to increase the amount of temporary liquor licence fee from the current P20 per day as well as penalties for those who failed to abide by the set trading hours.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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