Guy Dakin

The retail sale of liquor in South Africa is regulated via Provincial legislation. All Provinces established legislation dealing with requirements and sanctions to sell liquor to the public from 2003 save for the Limpopo Province which for some or other reason has continued to utilize the provisions of the former Liquor Act 27 of 1989.

Most Countries have established legislation regulating the sale of liquor to the public. The rationale is that the use of liquor (as with tobacco) constitute harmful products and restrictions are required to regulate their use in controlled circumstances.

The tragedy that unfolded in July 2022 relating to the Enyobeni Tavern in East London received widespread publicity. 21 children died under circumstances not entirely clear. The youngest person was only 13 years old. It would appear that large numbers of children under the age of 18 attended at the tavern on the evening in question.

The toxicology report issued by the Province suggests that the victims suffocated due to overcrowding at the tavern on the night in question. The department ruled out a stampede, toxic fumes from a generator in the venue and poisoning. Many of the victims had traces of methanol in their blood which is sometimes used when liquor concoctions are manufactured.

The Eastern Cape Liquor Board played a role after the tragedy utilizing the provisions authorized as the body mandated by the liquor legislation applicable to the Province. Sanctions such as suspending, revoking and criminally charging the owner are contained in the legislation.

Following the tragedy, the Board re-examined governance aspects. The Board strictly enforces the filing of a report by a Ward Councillor with the Municipality as part of the application process. The filing of the report alerts the Municipality in question as to the nature of the application and enables it to conduct its own exercise regarding compliance by the applicant. Compliance aspects falling under the control of a Municipality relate to zoning compliance, business licences, health compliance and building plan approvals.

Going forward establishing a venue involving the sale of liquor in the Province will require a person applying for a liquor licence in the Province to ensure that all legislative compliance is possible regarding both liquor and municipal legislation.