Sunday, January 29, 2023

Gov’t abandons proposed liquor law amendments

Government has abandoned plans to implement changes in the liquor act which would increase alcohol accessibility by allowing business outlets such as fuel stations and supermarkets to trade.

Last year government embarked on a nationwide consultation with various stakeholders including community leaders and alcohol bodies to share their views on the matter.

The Minister of Trade and Industry Mmusi Kgafela said that even though he intends to table a new bill before Parliament next month, it will not cover changes which sought to give fuel stations and supermarkets a leeway to sell alcohol.

He indicated that in their consultations it has proven that councilors for instance were opposed to the idea citing that the industry is already dominated by few people who also own fuel stations and supermarkets.

“I was told that there is a general voice in the community that when alcohol is more accessible, the less it gets abused, that was what I was told which I am not equipped to say if it is correct or incorrect.”

“People further on to advocate for the flexibility of liquor trading hours and some people also suggesting that the sector should be liberalized as much as possible,” he said.

Kgafela highlighted that bar owners also opposed the idea on the basis that it will drive more customers to the unusual places such as fuel stations.

He stated that there has always been complaints from bar owners that business is slow something which prompted government to restrict consumers from directly buying alcohol from wholesalers.

“There are so many complaints within the industry because there is also an outcry about bottle stores being owned by one individual and that is why I also intend to start discussions around that area,” added Kgafela.

He said government will continue to ensure that Batswana are not disadvantaged in doing business adding that it is the sole responsibility of government to ensure that the business environment becomes friendly to them.

“We are continuously reviewing the act so that Batswana do not feel left out in the business sector and I can assure you that other complaints they have highlighted will be attended to soon,” said Kgafela.

He said it would not be ideal to impose any bill on locals considering how much they suffered during the last 18 months.

“I am sure you are aware that liquor outlets especially suffered a great deal at the height of Covid-19 and it is only right that we ensure that the environment is conducive for them to pick profits,” said Kgafela.

Recently Botswana Alcohol Industry Association (BAIA) Spokesperson Jacob Sesinyi said it is a controversial issue, saying that government has already consulted them.

“We have met with government officials on the issue and there were mixed views on it but the bottom line is that the government proposed amendment will give customers convenience to buy anytime”. 

“Selling of alcohol in petrol stations and supermarkets is nothing new, it is even there in South Africa, so those with better financial muscle will be catered for,” said Sesinyi.

On the other hand, Botswana Beverages Association (BOBA) opposed the initiative saying that there are people who do not want to go into places where liquor is sold especially minors.

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