Is South Africa becoming a nation of drunkards?

Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe has urged South Africans to use alcohol responsibly and curb alcohol abuse among children.

Speaking at the national launch of the second annual Sobriety Week campaign on Friday, Thabethe described alcohol abuse as a growing crisis.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the annual liquor consumption by South Africans amounts to 7.87 litres of pure alcohol per person.

Research, she said has shown that the youth drink more than adults which pose a problem for the future of the country. Abuse of alcohol on the youth also has an impact on their academic performance.

“In the world South Africa is among the top ten of liquor consumption,” said the deputy minister, adding that the country now has high levels of alcohol foetal syndrome. She said the problem was most rife in De Aar in the Northern Cape and Diepsloot in Gauteng, appealing to pregnant women not to drink.

Alcohol abuse also cost the country between R9 and R10 billion a year, while alcohol abuse contributed to violence.

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“Liquor is a form of doing business but it has both advantages and disadvantages. It has economic benefits but creates fatalities,” she said, urging tavern owners to sell responsibly and for them to take cognisance of selling times.

Fines meted out to liquor sellers that flout the law were not effective enough and other avenues need to be looked at. “Fines don’t work, we must look at other options to do better,” she said, adding that “maybe withdrawing licenses” could work.

Other ways of entertainment need to be found for the youth, Rosho said. “We need more constructive entertainment for our youth as well as programmes to change the lifestyle of the youth,” she said, adding that the province will soon introduce business training for tavern owners.