Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) briefing

Social Development

19 October 2009
Chairperson: Ms Y Botha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Association For Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) is a non-profit organisation, comprising 70 associate members that include the major manufacturers of alcohol beverages in South Africa. ARA's briefing covered the problems of alcohol abuse, global developments in terms of combating alcohol abuse, their focus areas in reducing the harmful use of alcohol and their activities to achieve this. The Committee’s questions included the extent of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; ARA’s focus in the deep rural areas where alcohol abuse problems were serious; their relationship with the Central Drug Authority, SANCA, the police and unregistered retail traders such as shebeens; the number of safe houses they had set up; their programmes in rural and township schools and upcoming campaigns.

Meeting report

Mr Adrian Botha (ARA spokesperson) explained that the Association For Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) was registered in 1989 as a non-profit organisation, comprising 70 associate members that include the major manufacturers of alcohol beverages in South Africa. The ARA’s mission was to reduce alcohol-related harm through combating the misuse and abuse of alcohol beverages and promoting only their responsible use.

The World Organisation on Health (WHO) had adopted a resolution in 2008 that was the most significant review of alcohol policy in 25 years. It had drafted a global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol and sought collaboration with all stakeholders to contribute to achieving this. The working document had been published in August 2009. The industry of alcohol beverage manufacturers in South Africa strongly supported this effort although they did think that the working document focused almost entirely on strict government control and did not provide other options.

Mr Adrian Botha looked at ARA’s efforts to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. He identified the problems of excessive drinking, drinking and driving, underage drinking, violence and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome disorder. The ARA focus areas were
▪ effective self-regulation,
▪ partnerships with relevant stakeholders such as public health bodies and
▪ education.

For effective self-regulation to work, ARA had developed three Codes of Practice: the ARA Commercial Communications Code (CCC) dealing with all types of advertising and packaging, the Advertising Standards Authority Code (based on the ARA CCC and the Draft Code of Conduct for all ARA members presented to the Department of Trade and Industry. He discussed how this self-regulation worked. He provided detail on with whom and how they had partnerships. Through these they has created a poster campaign on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, had banned the sale of “papsak”, contributed to the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR), created “safe houses”, sponsored post-graduate fellowships and supported the Committee for Crime Prevention that combated alcohol-related social crimes and violence in the Northern Cape. He then outlined their many varied educational interventions to raise awareness about problems of excessive drinking, drinking and driving, underage drinking, violence and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome disorder

Ms H Makhuba (IFP) said that the presentation seemed to address mainly the provinces around the Cape and wanted to know if they were focusing on other provinces on a national level. She asked where the safe houses were in other provinces? 

Mr V Magagula (ANC) asked if they had resolved the issue of outlawing the sale of alcohol on a Sunday. He said that he was aware that there were cafés that still sold liquor on a Sunday. He asked how they would monitor and prevent this from happening. He also asked what they wanted to achieve with the tours.

Ms H Malgas (ANC) asked if, when they did assessments, what the impact of the campaigns was with the regard to promoting responsible drinking and education itself. She wondered how the organisation consolidated all the other campaigns that the presentation indicated were happening, even though Mr Botha had said that only two people were involved in the organisation. What partnerships did they have with other non-government organisations (NGOs) that had the same aims, objectives and ideas such as SANCA, Lifeline and NICRO? She asked what their relationship was with the Department of Sport and Recreation.

Ms H Lamoela (DA) asked if there were any statistics on the extent of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the Boland as she knew it was rife in that area. How would one go about establishing a safe house in one’s area as she did not know of any in the Boland? She asked for the contact details of those who did training in the Boland and Western Cape. She asked which areas were hardest hit by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She said it was an excellent presentation and asked who would be monitoring the implementation of their Code of Conduct. She said that she had heard several times that farm members were still being paid in alcohol. She asked if they could disclose to the Committee where this was still happening.

Ms W Nelson (ANC) said that the presentation only reported on the affluent schools in the Western Cape with regards to alcohol abuse. She asked what was happening in the townships and more rural areas. She came from a SANCA background and prevention was her forte. She thought that Industry was by far not doing enough in terms of prevention and programmes in schools. It was fine to talk to people but they needed to reach the youth as the problem was snowballing at the moment. The campaigns mentioned in the presentation were all national campaigns and she asked how they were drilling down to the actual one-to-one programmes with kids in schools.

Ms N Gcume (Cope) said that it seemed as if they were focusing only on the urban areas and not in the deep rural areas where alcohol abuse problems were serious. She asked if their members were only the manufacturers and retailers. What about the taverns and shebeens in the rural areas? If they were only focusing on the urban areas, the organisation was not making much impact. She asked what their working relationship was with the police. She thought their presentation was one hundred percent but she wanted to know how they were looking at the implementation of it. She asked if they would also invite the small Commuinty Based Organisations (CBOs) and Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) as well as the NGOs they were currently working with to come closer to them so they could spread the message around the country.

The Chairperson said that industry had a social responsibility in terms of the product they had on the market, to warn and alert the potential users of that product that long-term abuse could lead to certain consequences. She said that the presentation did show that there was a lot more commitment and involvement from industry’s side compared to only four years ago.

She referred to slide 9 of the presentation where in terms of the draft code it said that ARA would encourage unregistered retail traders to register and obtain licences. She asked if retail traders were members of ARA and, if so, why did they allow unregistered traders to become members as it was precisely these unregistered retail traders that acted irresponsibly as there was no one to regulate or monitor them. She came from the Northern Cape and there were liquor outlets every 800 meters in the CBD and hundreds of smokkelhuise and taverns in the townships. These places were all serving young children sent by their parents. Although the papsak was banned, the cheap wine was still sold in plastic bottles. She said they had to focus on retailing of this cheap wine as she believed this was the most harmful. She believed there was no issue of this wine being bought for its taste but that its only use was rapid intoxication. Industry had to take some responsibility to totally eliminate that product from the market.

She asked whether the industry association had any special campaigns such as Arrive Alive for the coming festive when there would be an increase in alcohol consumption. This was important as almost 80% of interpersonal crimes such as rape, grievous bodily harm and common assault and murder were related to alcohol.

She asked if they had any interaction with the hospitality industry in terms of responsible drinking programs as she believed that there was an opportunity for partnership. Also it was an important link for 2010 preparation and the coming tourism season.

She asked if they had made any preparations for 2010 World Cup to manage the social fall-out as this would be a boom time for the alcohol industry.

She asked if they had any working relations or at least engagements with organisations such as SANCA or if they have formed any other international partnerships.

She asked what their relationship was with the Central Drug Authority (CDA) and Department of Social Development in terms of monitoring and evaluating their policies. CDA was a public entity that reported to this Committee. She was sure that they had to work with them as they also had to work within the CDA ambit in terms of developing their framework of the Drug Master Plan.

Mr A Botha answered that they had tried to engage and develop relations with the CDA but that they had not had any success. They would love to have the opportunity of meeting with the CBA even if only once a year.
He answered that they did have international relationships, that they worked with the National Centre for Alcohol Policies in Washington, with a major research operation in UK and that they worked with the World Health Organisation. He said that wherever possible they tried to link in with the NGOs internationally, with international bodies and with the industry.

He answered that they had a good relationship with SANCA and that they were supportive of SANCA and had assisted them with their programs. They did not think it was industry’s role to get directly involved with rehabilitation but that they rather focused on involvement with prevention.

He answered that with regards to the 2010 World Cup they were aware that it would be a big challenge and that they hoped that the programs they were launching now would carry them through. They got together in January every year and planned for the year ahead and they would address this issue specifically.

He answered that they did not have a relationship with the hospitality industry and said it was due to communication difficulties. In the past, the associations that previously represented the hospitality industry were a lot stronger than today and it was a lot easier to get a message to everyone through FEDHASA but he found it more difficult nowadays. He accepted the point the Chairperson made that there had to be a holistic approach to the problem and it could not just be one section that did it.

The Chairperson advised him that the best approach would be to contact the individual provinces’ Departments of Tourism, and that most of the provinces had public entities that managed the tourism industry or they could go through SA Tourism who would give them the contact details of the public entities in the different provinces which would have a database of all the guest houses and hotels in the provinces.

Mr Botha thanked the Chairperson for her advice and said they would utilise it.

He answered that they would have campaigns focusing on the festive season. The campaigns would run from November through to February, SAB would have a R50 million campaign and Arrive Alive would also run programs and Brandhouse would run a R11 million campaign during the festive season. He said that it was important not to just have this campaigning in little bursts but that there must be continual reminders.

He answered that they wished they could do something about banning cheap bottled wine but that was not something they could regulate and that they would need government.

He said that they did not have shebeens as members and that they were unfortunately illegal. The only interaction they had managed with the shebeens was in the late 90s. They had tried to influence them and drew up a simple code that covered basic human things which the SAPS had tried to encourage them to put up. He said the illegal shebeens were a massive challenge that all the provinces were grappling with.

With regard to the questions about reaching the youth, they had funded the development of life skills programs and they felt it was their role to fund the development of programs and get the NGOs to run them.

Only affluent schools were mentioned in the presentation as they had needed to do a pilot. They wanted to see the effect of alcohol on a neighbourhood and since this document was created by Grant Newton of Bishops School they targeted other schools in the neighbourhood. They were aware of the need to run this programme in rural and township schools and they had translated it and were planning to do so.

He answered that with regards to the Dop System it had been outlawed the last 30 years and if anybody could find anybody who still practiced it, they could take it up and get them out of business. They must not get blinded by it as the new problem was that every Friday, bakkie shebeens sold alcohol to farm workers.

He answered that they were very happy to work with NGOs and that they worked with Fast Facts, Pebbles and Ignite. He said they thought it was better for the NGOs to do the work than sending in industry.

Assessment evaluation of programmes was critical and they would shortly get their first evaluation of the Teenagers and Alcohol programme that they had run. He said that he had to warn everyone that changing behaviour was not short-term but quite a long term thing. It had to be assessed over a long period of time but critical assessment and evaluation was essential.

He explained that the purpose of the tour was to visit countries that were doing good work with alcohol prevention and to see if they could learn anything from them.

On the matter of Sunday drinking, that was something that each province had to regulate.

He said the only safe house they had at the moment was in De Aar. He said it would be wonderful to expand it further and that they were looking into this.

He answered that Western and Northern Cape had the worst stats with regard to the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and that was why their focus seemed to be mainly on the Western Cape but that they were happy to work with all the provinces.

Meeting concluded.


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