The South African government plans to consider improvement to alcohol taxation in a review of alcohol control policy called for by president Ramaphosa. Meanwhile, Big Alcohol is seeking exemptions from taxes.

President Ramaphosa has renewed the commitment to improve alcohol policies in South Africa. As Movendi International reported previously, the president called for a review of the existing alcohol laws and policies in the country.

The highly effective temporary alcohol sales bans implemented in South Africa to curb the alcohol burden during the coronavirus crisis has demonstrated the potential for alcohol policy improvement in the country. Currently, South Africa is on its third temporary alcohol sales ban which came into effect in December 28, 2020 and is set to lift after review by February 15, 2020.

Increasing taxation is one of the policy measures the government is interested in according to the President. Other measures include increasing the legal age for buying alcohol and advertising restrictions.

Increasing alcohol taxes is an evidence based Best Buy policy measure recommended by the World Health Organization to reduce alcohol consumption and prevent harm. In fact, it is the single most cost-effective and impactful alcohol policy solution.

This is not the first time the South African government has considered improving alcohol policy solutions to prevent and reduce harms and develop the nation. The Liquor Amendment Bill of 2016 proposes evidence-based policy measures to tackle South Africa’s alcohol problem, including: 

  1. Increasing the legal age for alcohol purchase to 21 years;
  2. The introduction of a 100-metre radius limitation of alcohol trade around educational and religious institutions;
  3. Banning of any alcohol sales and advertising on social and small media; and
  4. The introduction of a new liability clause for alcohol sellers.

Unfortunately this Amendment bill has not proceeded beyond the cabinet in the last four years, despite wide-ranging support by high-level ministers and various organizations.

Apart from the Liquor Amendment Bill, the Draft Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill of 2013 and the Draft Traffic Amendment Bill of 2015 are also awaiting approval. The Traffic Amendment Bill which imposes a zero blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers is currently open for public comment.

Big Alcohol seeking tax exemptions

The alcohol industry previously requested deferment of excise tax payments in July and August 2020 and paid the due taxes in October 2020. Big Alcohol has now requested another deferment citing the ongoing temporary alcohol sales ban.

Other than seeking tax exemptions, Big Alcohol has outright challenged the government on the life-saving alcohol sales ban in South African courts. AB InBev subsidiary SAB Miller has gone to courts over the sales ban and wine lobby front group VinPro has approached the Western Cape High Court seeking to be exempted from the alcohol sales ban.


Times Live: “Stiffer tax on booze looms large

The Southern Times: “SA alcohol industry sobers up”

Rising Sun: “Alcohol industry seeks deferment of excise tax payment until alcohol ban is lifted