The Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources met to be briefed by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on the Liquor Products Amendment Bill [B10B-2016] and to rescind a vote taken on the Extension Of Security Of Tenure Amendment Bill. Initially the Committee caucused whether to even hear the briefing because of the absence of the Ministers of the Departments concerned (Minister of Agriculture,Forestry and Fisheries and Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform).
The Liquor Products Amendment Bill sought to provide control over: the production and sale of certain alcoholic products by changing the alcohol content of what was deemed as liquor from the current 1% of volume to 0.5%; to address the composition and properties of products and its labeling, to safeguard consumers; to amend the composition of the Wine and Spirit Board to make it more representative and to limit its powers to wine and spirits; to include definitions of beer and African beer within its ambit; and to control the import and export of certain alcoholic products. The proliferation of various types of beers especially traditional beers had become a danger and was unregulated and needed to be regulated. The powers of the Wine And Spirits Board needed to be limited to an oversight role of the certification of wines and brandies.
Members asked why the bill was tagged as s75 and not s76. Members asked if DAFF had thought of ways to regulate home brewed beer like umqombothi. Members said a consequence might be the perpetuation of illegal production where manufacturers added harmful inputs such as battery acid. Members asked how the fermentation time of these beers would be regulated because ‘longer was stronger’. Members said there had to be a distinction between brewing for sale and brewing for recreation. How would sales be regulated and would licenses be issued? Members said the packaging of the beer could be a problem and a health risk. Members did not want the bill to take away local entrepreneurship nor should it regulate cultural traditions. Was thought given to the abuse of alcohol? Members asked a range of questions that related to the main act and not to the amendment bill.
The amendment bill was unanimously accepted by the Committee without amendments. The Committee report on the bill was also approved.
The Committee Secretary then informed the Committee that a previous vote, taken the week before, to adopt the Extension of Security of Tenure Bill with amendments needed to be rescinded as the proposed amendments were already incorporated into the amendment bill. The vote could not take place because at that point the Committee was not quorate. The matter was placed on the agenda for the Committee meeting of the following Tuesday.
Apologies were tendered for the absence of the Ministers of DAFF and DRDLR.
Ms Z Ncitha (ANC; Eastern Cape), questioned the apologies that were tendered.
Mr Mike Mhlengana, Director-General, DAFF, said he did not know the details of why his Minister was not able to be present.
Mr A Nyambi (ANC), Mr E Mlambo (ANC, Gauteng) and Dr H Mateme (ANC; Limpopo) all agreed that it was unacceptable to receive apologies from the Ministers during the meeting, for compliance sake, and that the Chairperson should be consistent on the Committee’s stance that Ministers should attend Committee meetings, especially if the Ministers were serious about the bills. The previous week the Committee had decided that it would be the last time.
Mr C Smit (DA, Limpopo) proposed that the delegations be sent packing.
The Committee then held a closed meeting to caucus on the matter. After 20 minutes the meeting resumed, and the Chairperson said that the Committee expressed their disappointment in the principals but that the meeting would continue.
Briefing by Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF)
Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, DDG: Agricultural Production, Health & Food Safety Room, DAFF, introduced the amendments to the Liquor Products Act No. 60 of 1989. He focused on the objectives of the act which was to provide control over: the production and sale of certain alcoholic products by changing the alcohol content of what was deemed as liquor from the current 1% of volume to 0.5%; to address the composition and properties of products and its labeling, to safeguard consumers; to amend the composition of the Wine and Spirit Board to make it more representative and to limit its powers to wine and spirits; and to control the import and export of certain alcoholic products.
The amendments were
The inclusion of beer; traditional African beer and other sugar fermented beverages (SFB) in the act.
The alcohol content of deemed liquor products would be lowered from the current 1% of volume alcohol content to 0.5% to create uniformity across the three acts that dealt with liquor issues
The control over the sale of SFBs
Reducing the powers of the Wine and Spirit Board.
The deletion of “specially authorized liquors” which would be accommodated in the Regulations as classes of an “other fermented alcoholic beverage”.
Authorise the Minister to have an option of designating Assignees over the exportation of liquor products
Authorise the Minister to designate a laboratory for the sampling of export liquor products
update gender sensitive terminology in the act.
Mr Ramasodi said the inclusion of a definition for beer, contemporary beer, traditional African beer and other fermented beverages would require that the definitions in other Acts like the National Liquor Act would have to be amended. One of the unintended consequences of beer now being in the scope of the Act was that beer kits, mainly used for homebrews, would be regulated so a section would be brought into the Act to allow the Minister to grant exemption via regulations. The bill also sought to bring instant powder liquors under the scope of the act.
Mr Mhlengana highlighted that Parliament had instructed DAFF to do a detailed review of the act. The proliferation of various types of beers especially traditional beers had become a danger and was unregulated. This needed to be regulated and the powers of the Wine and Spirits Board needed to be limited to an oversight role of the certification of wines and brandies.
Mr Nyambi asked why the bill was tagged as s75 and not s76 as this would impact on African traditional beer and he wanted the assurance that the tagging was correct because there had been previous mistakes in tagging.
Mr Smit wanted clarity on the definition of ‘container’ - currently the Act spoke of any container of not more than five litres.
Mr Smit said the appointments to the Wine Certification Authority in s2(2)(a) were very vague and more qualifiable (sic) conditions should be set for the appointments. There was no qualification criteria set for the person appointed by the Minister. There was little purpose for the establishment of a selection committee if the Minister was in charge of appointing the Committee.
Mr Smit further asked what the purpose was of having a time period for members of the Authority if at the end of the period it was left open for members to continue to serve. In his view, the terminology used in the clause on the ability of the Minister to remove a member was vague. The fact that the Authority would meet at a place and time determined by the Authority left it open to neglect its responsibility. s2(7)(e) was very poorly worded and should be amended. It was of concern that it appeared as if the Authority had the unfettered ability to create committees to do work and to determine the allowances payable to members of those committees. Referring to s2(10)(a)(ii) and (iii), he said the Authority should only be able to take out a loan in specific circumstances and if it had a clear plan on how it would meet its loan obligations.
Mr Smit said the bill should place conditions on the amount of money that could be invested by the Authority and that it should be subject to the conditions set by the PFMA. DAFF should provide specific examples of exemptions from the prohibitions referred to in in s4(1)(b). He asked what public input had been given on s6(a), (b), and (c). He wanted clarification on s10, dealing with the repeal of the authorisation of sacramental juices, mead and fermented alcohol.
Mr J Julius (DA) asked if DAFF had thought of ways to regulate home brewed beer like umqombothi. A consequence might be the perpetuation of illegal production where manufacturers added harmful inputs such as battery acid.
Mr Julius said the legislation was aimed at businesses and not consumers. He asked how the fermentation time of these beers would be regulated because ‘longer was stronger’. There had to be a distinction between brewing for sale and brewing for recreation. How would sales be regulated and would licenses be issued? He said packaging of the beer could be a problem and a health risk. On the other hand, the bill should not take away local entrepreneurship nor should it regulate cultural traditions. Was thought given to the abuse of alcohol?
The Chairperson spoke of a particular potato found in the North West that could poison one if it was not prepared properly in the making of Khadi beer.
Mr Mhlengana said the DAFF focus was on the amendments, but he got the impression that the Committee’s focus was on the main body of the Act. DAFF would still look at the main bill but the focus for now was on the amendments.
Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, said the DAFF and the State Law Advisors (SLA) had suggested the bill be tagged as s75 when the bill was introduced. The Parliamentary Legal Advisors had also looked at the bill. The bill spoke to trade issues and therefore would fall under schedule 4, but the issue to be addressed was not so much the issue of trade but that of production and manufacturing. The bill was not regulating trade but was about the manufacturing of a product and the product’s content. The bill had no provision that would affect the autonomy of provinces so therefore it was a s75 bill and the JTM had agreed on this view.
Mr Ramasodi said that where DAFF had accepted there were previous mistakes, was in reference to the word ‘goji’ that had crept into the text to imply ‘quality’, but the term actually had a technical meaning.
On Mr Smit’s questions, he said the issues that were raised were not included in the amendment bill. The definition of container would remain as would that concerning the Wine And Spirit Board and the qualifications of members. The real issue was to reduce the powers of the Wine And Spirit Board which had extended its authority beyond wine and spirits.
On Mr Julius’ questions, he said the bill was not trying to deal with the cultural ways of brewing beer, these were dealt with by exemptions for cultural events and celebrations, but the content of the beer needed to be regulated, for example the use of battery acid in beer. There were three acts dealing with an alcohol content: the Food, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, the Liquor Act and the Liquor Products Act, which did not have a uniform minimum alcohol content to qualify as liquor. This lack of uniformity had meant that new concoctions were brought to the market through loopholes. With the amendment bill everything with an alcohol content of more than 0.5% would be deemed to be liquor.
He said fermentation and African beer could be regulated through the accepted properties of African beer.
On the abuse of alcohol, he said there were lots of cheap alcohol being promoted like the SFBs, so the DAFF was trying to control this in conjunction with the Departments of Trade and Industry, Health and SAPS.
He agreed that the amendments should not interfere with the entrepreneurial spirit, so DAFF was looking at ways to look at current practices and embrace new developments as they occurred.
Mr Mhlengana said that he noted the concerns of members on the main bill.
Ms Ncitha proposed that the amendment bill be accepted as it was.
Mr Smit disagreed and said that the DAFF had said it would look at the submissions, so voting could not take place before the DAFF had had a look and reported back to the Committee.
Mr Nyambi asked for clarity on the process to be followed.
Mr Asgar Bawa, Committee Secretary, said it was up to the Committee to propose amendments to the bill. If there were, then the amendments would be drafted by the legal advisors and the Committee report would be adopted with the proposed amendments that were offered. If the Committee was satisfied with the amendment bill as it was, then it would adopt the Committee report without any amendments.
Ms Ngema said that looking at the LAMOSA (Land access movement of SA) judgement and in terms of s 65 (2) which made a distinction between s76 and s75 bill, it depended on how the Committee responded to the rules, it depended on what the Committee’s views were. It was up to the Committee to decide whether to provide time for the DAFF and support staff to look at the suggestions made in the meeting or to decide to leave the bill as it stood.
Mr Smit proposed that DAFF be given time to review the suggested amendments.
Ms N Koni (EFF, Northern Cape) said the Committee needed to allow DAFF to go back and check whether it needed to amend the bill.
Mr Mhlengana said DAFF had presented matters relating to the amendment bill and the issues raised by Mr Smit related to the main bill, so he did not think there was a need for the DAFF to go back and review Mr Smit’s proposed amendments.
Mr Nyambi then seconded Ms Ncitha’s proposal.
The amendment bill was unanimously accepted without amendments.
The Committee report on the bill was also approved
Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR)
The Committee Secretary then informed the Committee about a previous vote, taken the week before, to adopt the Extension of Security of Tenure Bill with amendments. In his discussions with the SLA, it transpired that the proposed amendments were already incorporated in the bill. To correct the matter, the Committee needed to rescind its decisions and vote on the bill as it was introduced.
Ms E Prins (ANC, Western Cape) said her concern was whether this would continually happen. Were there no legal people present to give direction to the Committee.
Mr Nyambi proposed that the Committee do what was expected and rescind the report.
The Committee Secretary then noted that there was not a quorum as some members had left.
Mr Nyambi proposed that a date be set for another time.
The Committee Secretary proposed that as the issue had been clarified and it only required the voting process to adopt the report and the Department need not be present. He suggested it be set down for the following Tuesday.
Mr Nyambi disagreed and said DRDLR needed to be present as their absence might be used by the DA to raise procedural issues to frustrate the passage of the bill.
Ms Prins agreed.
Ms Rendani Sadiki Acting DG: DRDLR, said she wanted to clarify the matter of the apology of the Minister. A written apology had been given the previous day which explained that the Minister would be in a Cabinet meeting.
Ms Koni said Ministers did not attend the Committee’s meetings but attended Portfolio Committee meetings and this undermined the Select Committee. In her view the apology should not be accepted. She added that Cabinet meetings were on Wednesdays not Tuesdays
The meeting adjourned.
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