Speech notes by DA MPL, Ross Purdon – ECPL portfolio committee on Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism

Honourable Speaker

Honourable Premier

Honourable Members

All present in this gallery

 

Good afternoon to you all,

It is well known that the Liquor Bill has been gazetted for public comment.

It is important to know that each province has its own Act.

Through the Eastern Cape Liquor Act, the Eastern Cape Liquor Board ensures that fully compliant licence applications are processed within the time frames stipulated.

The board must also ensure that illegal trading is minimised and that business is conducted in a professional manner.

The Board is also mandated to facilitate participation by Ward Committees and communities in the consideration of applications for registration certificates.

As I have pointed out before, this is a major grey area as decisions are being taken without these consultations and the Board is therefore failing the residents in many municipalities. It does not help that Ward Committees are not functioning in many of the Eastern Cape local municipalities.

The Eastern Cape Liquor Board has been allocated R43 million for 2015/16 and only utilised R9 million for the period April – June, which indicates an underspending of 35% which is not acceptable.

Liquor consumption and the trade thereof are very complex issues in our country. Alcohol is the main drug in South Africa with 30% of the population being either alcoholics or at risk of becoming so. According to the Medical Research Council, South Africans drink in excess of 5 billion litres of alcohol a year!

It is also quite disturbing to note that about 60% of South Africans don’t drink at all, so it tells how much the other 40% are consuming. R8.6 billion was spent on alcoholic beverages in the Eastern Cape alone in 2013.

The abuse of alcohol has and is steadily reducing our productivity and our ability to compete on world markets. As Premier Zille said in a recent speech and I quote: “Alcohol abuse is the biggest single threat to achieving our goal of increasing wellness, safety and reducing social ills. Alcohol abuse fuels violence, injuries and other criminal behaviour”.

We heard on Tuesday that 70% of crimes in our Province are liquor related.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can take a heavy toll on an individual’s health, family relationships, work and school performance. Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to a number of diseases and behavioural disorders placing an extra burden on our health services.

The Bill is still out for public comment and will probably be debated at a later stage but it is important to note that our provinces, cities and towns have variations of liquor laws and by laws. These variations are causing confusion and opening up loop holes. Policing is a national function, liquor licencing a provincial function and trading hours a local government function.

We need uniform liquor laws throughout the country.

Madam Speaker

To tackle this major problem we have to look at the broader issues.

We have to focus on education and skills development particularly among the youth. A sad fact is that school sport is a major problem and facilities in poor residential areas are increasingly derelict and uncared for. More and more young people are heading for the taverns.

We have to concentrate at all levels on providing clean extra mural activities.

Taking all this into account the Liquor Board has to concentrate on closing down illegal outlets where 45 were identified in East London and Umtata alone! These illegal taverns don’t actually employ a lot of people but cause many many problems for the communities.

It was encouraging to read the Safety and Liaison report recommending that SAPS closely monitor closed liquor outlets to ensure that they do not re-open and continue to trade again.

Even with legal outlets, the job creation figures are debatable.

In the liquor industry in the Eastern Cape it is assumed that for each liquor licence issued, a minimum of three jobs are created (Only three). Under the period under review, 63 new liquor licences to traders were issued resulting in approximately 189 jobs.

This could seem to be counterproductive when these jobs are measured against the damage they are causing. That is a debate for another day.

To improve the situation we have to think of new innovations such as fining drunken pedestrians and banning the sale of alcohol to pregnant women.

We must investigate glass recycling incentives which will result in less broken glass and much cleaner towns. Recycling also leads to business opportunities.

Pension payments to confirmed alcoholics should be re-directed to sober family members. It is extremely sad to see how busy the liquor outlets in this town are on pension days.

Stricter law enforcement with regard to drunk driving should lead to a more effective taxi industry (especially in urban areas) If people are punished severely for drunk driving, they will always look for alternative transport!

Madam Speaker

Speaking about law enforcement allows me to change the subject to environmental issues.

The department informed us that they initiated 33 law enforcement actions against a target of 13 for this quarter. While this may seem to be impressive to some, I feel the target has been set way too low.

We were also told that 16 licensed waste facilities had been inspected for compliance. Some are not doing so well but recommended action would keep them in check. Special intervention has been initiated, specifically for the Buffalo City Metro as their challenges need an integrated strategy and approach, we were told.

The reality is that we were not told how many illegal sites had been inspected (if any?)

One such example is the Stoney Drift Dumpsite in East London. The waste management licence for the site expired on 31 December 2013, yet dumping continues daily with apparent blessing by the BCM. As their front end loader was working in the site.

As well as the site being illegal, there is a community of about 500 shack dwellers living on the same site.

In a free and fair society no one should be scratching out a meagre existence from the crumbs of a more fortunate man’s garbage.

No one should be allowed to live on a dump site.

The Stoney Drift Dumpsite is illegal and the Green Scorpions must act decisively against the Buffalo City Metro in terms of the National Environment Management Act.

It is the function of the Environmental Management Inspectors (The Green Scorpions) to enforce section 24 of the Constitution which guarantees that every individual enjoys the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and wellbeing.