Liquor Products Amendment Bill: deliberations

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

22 August 2017
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries adopted amendments raised by Members in previous meetings on the Liquor Products Amendment Bill. The amendments agreed to would now go to the A or B version of the Bill.

After a lengthy deliberation on the difference between a liquor product and an alcohol product, including difference in the alcohol percentages between the two, the Committee agreed that all liquor products with an alcohol content of 0.5% or more would be classified as alcohol, which was in accordance with standard international law. The Committee further asked the legal teams of both the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and Parliament to thoroughly study Section 11 of the Principal Act and the sub-sections 3 and 4 which dealt with exemptions, so that they could brief the Committee for clarity at its next engagement on the Bill.

Lastly, the Committee adopted eleven sets of minutes, with no amendments.

Meeting report

Discussion

Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, took the Committee through the amendments of the Bill on matters which Members had raised in the previous meetings, page by page.

The Chairperson informed the Members the amendments were going to go the B or A version of the Bill. The duty of the Committee was to adopt the amendments to the clauses.

Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC) asked at what point a product changed, because when its alcohol content was 0. 5% it was a liquor product, but when the alcohol content reached 1%, it was regarded as alcohol.

Ms Wendy Jonker, Manager: Liquor Products Inspection and Quarantine, DAFF, said that the current scope of definition of a liquor product was going to change from 1% to 0.5%. That had been a previous suggestion. Currently, a liquor product would have a percentage of more than 1%.

Ms A Steyn (DA) said that they needed more of an explanation on the changes in percentages, because it seemed like there was a gap between 0.5% and 1%.

The Chairperson said the matter needed to be clarified so as not to cause confusion. 0.5% was the definition of a liquor product, but when it was licensed it had to be 1%.

The Acting Director-General explained that the definition of a liquor product was anything that had an alcohol content of more than 0, 5%. He said the Committee was suggesting that as long as it was a liquor product, it had to be licensed, but the Department classified a liquor product as anything with an alcohol content of more than 0,5%.

The Chairperson said the issue was how the two Acts – the Liquor Act and Liquor Products Act - were going to work together properly. If they wanted to regulate liquor, they must not be informed by anyone who sold it anywhere. For liquor to be licensed, the Committee and the DAFF needed to stipulate the required minimum percentage.

Ms Ngema said the whole issue revolved around the composition of the product and what it was made up of.  When it was to become a product to be sold over the counter, it was then that the Liquor Act would kick in to see if the product to be sold complied with the Liquor Act and met the minimum requirements. The Liquor Product Act could remain at 0.5%, but for purposes of licensing and enforcement it had to remain at 1%.

The Chairperson asked why, before the amendments, a product was not regarded as liquor if it had 0. 5% alcohol, but now anything with 0.5% was regarded as liquor.

Ms Kanthi Nagiah, Chief Director for Legal Services: DAFF, said there was cohesion in terms of the definitions. Now they recognised all products with an alcohol content from 0.5% were classified as liquor. From 1% one required a licence, and there were prescripts to be followed.

Mr P Maloyi (ANC) asked what the initial definition had been before the amendment.

Ms Nagiah said it was 1%.

Mr Maloyi then asked what the rationale was behind changing the definition from 1% to 0.5%.

The Acting Director-General said the introduction of 1% had had to do with the current practice. The intention was to regulate from 0.5%.

Mr Ntshayisa said he was confused, because the difference between a liquor product and alcohol was not clear.

The Chairperson indicated this had been a grey area before.

Ms Jonker said the intention of the Department was to harmonise with international liquor regulations. It was confusing to have two definitions of liquor products, and there had been a need to revise the whole matter.

Mr Maloyi said there was a need to consider the submissions from the affected stakeholders, because people had made oral and written submissions. He added that the Department had quoted a section in the Principal Act that dealt with exemptions, but the very same section had not been mentioned in the discussions.

Mr P van Dalen (DA) said it was important to invite comments from the public and accept or reject them, but the purpose of the whole process was to close loopholes. It was therefore better to listen to the comments and then apply their minds.

Ms Jonker indicated she had had a meeting with Danie Cronje Attorneys to lower the content, but they had felt that would have had unintended consequences.

The Chairperson said that if 0.5% was an international standard law, then that was well and good. She suggested the Committee should agree if it wanted to leave everything at 1% for licensing, and at 0.5% for classification as a liquor product.

Ms Steyn asked which Bill or department was supposed to regulate between 0.5% and 1%.

Mr Dipepeneneng Serage, Chief Director for Food Inspection and Quarantine Services: DAFF, said it was the responsibility of the DAFF to enforce and ensure the products complied with the law.

Mr Van Dalen wanted to know if children would be able to buy a product which had an alcohol content of 0.7% and was sold at supermarkets.

Mr Serage said if, as currently, it was not regulated, children could buy a product such as a shandy.

Ms Jonker stated the Department of Health looked at the label, not at the content.  If the product had an alcohol content of 0.7%, children could drink it without knowing it was alcohol. There was therefore a need to harmonise matters in order to protect the children.

The Chairperson indicated that Members should agree to agree on 0.5%, and that all liquor must be licensed, because the purpose of the Act was to close existing gaps.

Ms Steyn wanted to know how many regulations, not necessarily of the Bill under discussion, were published by the Department, and asked if it was the norm to go to Parliament instead of the Portfolio Committee to consider and approve the regulations.

Mr Serage said that for the Liquor Products Act, the DAFF published twice a year, because the trade kept on changing. The Minister sets the regulations, though the Department consulted widely on them. However, he appealed to the Committee to allow the Minister to set the regulations.

Ms Ngema told the Committee that the Constitution dealt with expressions. When an instrument was tabled before Parliament, then this meant that that instrument was there to inform Parliament. When it was tabled before Parliament for approval, however, it was given consideration and then approved. The Committee dealt only with the details and resolutions.

Mr Van Dalen said Members had never seen the regulations before and would like to see them and comment, to see if they would work. There was a need to intervene more on these matters.

Mr Maloyi wanted to establish if Section 11 of the Principal Act which dealt with the granting of exemptions between 0.5% and 1% was going to be retained or amended.

Ms Ngema replied that Section 4 of the Principal Act gave a clear blanket prohibition now that the alcohol content had to start from 0.5%. Section 10 of the Principal Act was going to be repealed, so the Minister would have to deal with the granting of exemptions between 0% and 0.4%.

Mr Maloyi wanted to establish what was going to happen to Section 11 regarding the granting of exemptions by the Minister.

Ms Jonker said that exemptions would remain the same under Section 4 of the Act. Section 11 would remain as it was.

Ms Steyn asked where beer powder was going to fall under the Act, because when it was sold over the counter, it was not alcohol, but when it was mixed with water and other substances and sold informally, it was going to become alcohol. She wanted to know how it was going to be regulated in terms of content, because the sale of it was not going to be avoided.

Ms Jonker said there were provisions in the Act that allowed the Minister to make exemptions in respect of the beer powder.

The Chairperson asked if exemptions would apply to traditional beer like umqombothi, and wanted to know what its content volume was going to be, because African beer was attached to customs.

Mr Serage said that if the African beer was produced for a traditional function, the DAFF would not interfere, but if it was produced for trade, then the DAFF regulations would kick in.

Mr Maloyi asked the legal team and DAFF to thoroughly go through Section 11 of the Principal Act and subsections 3 and 4, including the ones that dealt with exemptions, and to brief the Committee for clarity at a date to be announced.

The Chairperson asked Members to move the adoption of the amendments.

Ms Steyn moved for the acceptance of the amendments, but with changes.

Mr Ntshayisa seconded the motion.

The amendments were adopted, with changes.

Adoption of Minutes

The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 28 February 2017 page by page.
Mr W Maphanga (ANC) moved their adoption, and Ms T Tongwane (ANC) seconded. The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 7 March page by page. Mr N Capa (ANC) moved their adoption, and Mr R Cebekulu (IFP) seconded. The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 10 March page by page. Ms Tongwane moved their adoption, and Mr Maphanga seconded. The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 14 March page by page. Mr N Paulsen (EFF) moved their adoption, and Mr Van Dalen seconded. The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 22 March page by page. Mr Cebekulu moved their adoption, and Ms Steyn seconded. The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 4 May page by page. Ms Tongwane moved their adoption, and Mr Capa seconded. The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 9 May page by page. Ms Steyn moved their adoption, and Mr Cebekulu seconded. The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 16 May page by page. Mr Van Dalen moved their adoption, and Mr Maphanga seconded. The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 19 May page by page.
Mr Tongwane moved their adoption, and Ms Steyn seconded.
The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 13 June page by page. Mr Maphanga moved their adoption, and Ms Steyn seconded. The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 20 June page by page. Mr Van Dalen moved their adoption, and Mr Capa seconded. The minutes were adopted with no amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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