By Cuma Pantshwa

  • To combat rising underage drinking and alcohol abuse during pregnancy,Eastern Cape’s Social Development Department held a workshop in Ndevana township. 
  • Discussions highlighted the need for stricter enforcement by the Liquor Board,responsible trading practices, and parental involvement. 
  • Stakeholders agreed on the importance of community forums to tackle illegal shebeens,crime, and drug dealing around taverns.

The Eastern Cape Liquor Board, local traders, SAPS, and community members of Ndevana township outside King William’s Town braved the cold and gathered at the Anti-Drug Prevention workshop hosted by the Department of Social Development – day two of the build-up activities to the commemoration of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

With the alarming rates of underage drinking and alcohol-related harm during pregnancy, the department is conducting educational workshops that aim to raise awareness about the harmful use, abuse, and misuse of alcohol and drugs and the importance of responsible trading. The Eastern Cape Liquor Board’s Ms Bongi Bozo and Inspector Ngqola explained the detailed process involved when verifying applications for a liquor licence and the powers of the board to not only fine but arrest those irresponsible traders selling alcohol to children younger than 18, serving pregnant women, and who are non-compliant. Ms Bozo stressed the need and importance for liquor traders to comply with trading guidelines.

Speaking out about their concerns and demonstrating the multi-faceted nature of the issue, Mr Christopher Nomtoto, General Secretary of the Qonce Liquor Traders Association, said that there were also adults who purchase alcohol for young people in these areas. “We urge lawmakers,” he pleaded, “if children are found in our places, a tavern owner must account, the parents of the child must account, and the child must account.”

Robust discussions emerged from the participants, but a singular message unified all – that each stakeholder has a critical role to play in dealing with substance abuse and the need for all to join hands to eradicate alcohol-related harms in communities. Parents were called to play their part as Ms Sibongiseni Tom, SAPS Community Safety Officer, pointed out: “We are pleading with parents to allow us to do our jobs. Parents nowadays are fighting with us and allowing their children to get away with crime instead of working with us and therefore contribute to building a safer and healthier community.”

While many issues were raised, one positive recommendation was listed as a way forward – the need to initiate a forum led by the Liquor Board to regularly engage traders and the community on pressing matters such as illegal shebeens that are mushrooming at a high speed, the crime rate associated with substance abuse, and the selling of drugs and other harmful substances outside some taverns. Councillor Nkala from Ward 49 of Buffalo City expressed gratitude to all those who were involved and applauded Social Development and the Liquor Board for the empowering session. He added that his hope is to see the partnership grow from strength to strength in order to reach and impact other rural communities in South Africa.

“We want community members to be the ears and eyes for us so that we can assist them,” said Inspector Ngqola of ECLB as he urged all the stakeholders to ensure they are compliant with the liquor regulation. “If there’s any illegal practice, we will act on that! Let’s form those forums so we can attend to all these issues.”

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