A spokesman for the Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) has said that it wishes to make a contribution to future alcohol policy in Gauteng and in the rest of the country, but is finding it difficult to do so in some instances. The association has expressed serious reservations about the close involvement of the non-governmental organisation Soul City in the development of the draft Gauteng Liquor Policy.
The ARA recognises that the abuse of alcohol beverages can have a detrimental effect on employment and productivity, the distribution of income and opportunities, sound public health and security within the home and society at large. The ARA is therefore fully supportive of the intentions of the Gauteng government to seek to reduce the harmful use of alcohol by "facilitating responsible attitudes towards the production, distribution, promotion, marketing, advertising, sale and consumption of liquor".
Unambiguously anti-alcohol and anti-industry
"Soul City has demonstrated on numerous occasions that it is unambiguously anti-alcohol and anti-industry. While as a non-governmental organisation it has every right to take this stance, the ARA questions how, with this clear bias, Soul City is not only advising the Gauteng provincial government on policies relating to the liquor industry and advocating for the exclusion of the industry from the policy process, but has also been placed in a position where it can selectively determine the outcome of the consultations with stakeholders. With only three people present in one of the consultations for example, this can only be described as farcical," said Adrian Botha, spokesman for the ARA.
Traditionally, policy advisors to government are independent, subject matter experts who are unbiased. This appears not to be the case in the current round of policy formulation regarding liquor - an anomaly that is of grave concern to the ARA and to the entire liquor industry.
A multifaceted and complex problem
Botha has stressed repeatedly the ARA's belief that it is extremely important in regard to alcohol abuse specifically to resist the temptation to try to find a simple solution to a multifaceted and complex problem. Alcohol abuse is related to the complex interaction of biological, socio-cultural and psychological factors in the environment, which will not respond to simplistic and cosmetic measures of prevention.
In the ARA's view, no single action is likely to reduce alcohol problems and a mix of self-regulation, enforcement of existing laws governing sale and consumption, and targeted interventions, combined with individuals taking personal responsibility for their drinking choices, is the most appropriate response.
The ARA says it looks forward to working with the Gauteng government and the Department of Economic Development to ensure a workable solution to the problems of abuse while at the same time ensuring economic growth in the province.