Is Northern Cape Liquor Board facilitating FAS?

Andrew Louw, MPL

DA Provincial Leader

The Northern Cape is well-known as the Foetal Alcohol Syndrome capital of the world. Estimates are that 11 out of every 100 children in Kimberley suffer from FAS and our FAS rates are up to double that in the rest of the world.  Yet the Northern Cape Liquor Board is failing in its task to ensure proper regulation of the liquor industry and instead hands out liquor licenses like lollipops. In the past two years, it has approved approximately 2 liquor licenses every day.

The Liquor Board freely admits that it cannot meet the industry standard of inspections. Each outlet should be visited four to six times yearly, but the Liquor Board lacks the capacity and financial resources to do so. In the 2012/13 year, the Liquor Board only met 43% of its planned targets as it relates to awareness, compliance and enforcement of liquor regulations. This dismal performance worsened in the 2013/14 year, where the Liquor Board met only 15% of its planned awareness, compliance and enforcement campaigns. To bring the Northern Cape Liquor Board to industry standards, an additional R2 million will need to be invested.

Despite the fact that the Liquor Board cannot ensure compliance with liquor regulations, it approved 1 004 liquor licenses in the past two years. In 2013/14, 76% of liquor licenses were approved and only 4% rejected. The remainder were postponed or withdrawn. Occasional liquor licenses are especially problematic, as the Liquor Board cannot follow up to ensure that licensees continue to trade indefinitely using an occasional license. Last year, 86% of occasional liquor licenses were approved and only 4% rejected. Many of these liquor outlets are situated close to schools, places of worships and homes. It creates a nuisance and breeds illegal activity, yet the Liquor Board is powerless to prevent it.

It is interesting to note that 20% of the occasional liquor licenses relate to government events and tourism activities, like the Speedweek, art festivals, the Kimberley Diamond Cup and Writer’s Day. Many of these events involve the participation of minors. Are we creating a society where alcohol is seen as necessary to have fun or to relax?

Why is the Liquor Board continuing to hand out liquor licenses when it cannot enforce the liquor regulations? Another question that comes to mind is whether we are actually surprised that FAS is so high given that government is making alcohol so easily accessible, while at the same time failing to facilitate an environment that is conducive towards the creation of real jobs for our people.