Liquor Products Amendment Bill [B22-2008], [B22A-2008], [B22B-2008]: deliberations

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

23 June 2008
Chairperson: Mr R Mohlaloga (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The briefing was focused on ensuring that all the proposed amendments had been successfully implemented into the Liquor Product Amendment Bill. The briefing was also used for members that had not attended the previous briefing to get up to date with what had been decided in the previous meeting. The amendments were principally related to the provision for electing a Liquor Product Board, as well as altering sections of the Bill to comply with international trade law standards.

Some members complained that the amendments covered only a limited section of the Liquor Products Bill and the entire 1989 Act needed revision. These interim measures were not comprehensive enough.

The majority of the questions raised related to the choice of wording used in the amendments; the lack of provisions for choosing a selection committee; and ensuring conformity with European Union trade legislation.

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted that in the previous meeting there had been serious deferments in deliberating the Bill due to the lack of a quorum, and added that the Committee needed to complete its deliberations before the parliamentary session ended. He said that the general public had been advised that there would be public hearings on the Liquor Products Amendment Bill, but stakeholders had failed to attend the previous meeting. The Chair invited the delegation from the Department of Agriculture to propose final amendments to the Bill. 

Liquor Products Amendment Bill [B22-2008]: Briefing
Ms Kanthi Nagiah (Legal Affairs, Department of Agriculture) noted that the legal team had only three additional proposed amendments. In Section 2(3)(c) of Act 60 of 1989 they proposed to delete ‘more than once’. Secondly, Ms Nagiah pointed out that the word ‘more’ was missing from Section 2(4)(d). Finally, it was proposed that an additional sub-clause be added to Section 2(5)(a) stating “fails to perform his or her duties in terms of this Act’”.

Discussion
Mr A Botha (DA) noted that the amendments only covered a limited section of the Liquor Products Bill, which he deemed to be inadequate, as the entire 1989 version of the Bill was in need of revision. He added that interim measures were not comprehensive enough.

Dr A van Niekerk (DA) pointed out that there were two pressing matters to be addressed by the interim amendments. Firstly, the provisions for the Wine and Spirit Board outlined by the 1989 Act had been outdated, and secondly, it was necessary to ensure that South African liquor product legislation complied with international measures. This would ensure increased and efficient international trade. He added that revision of the entire Bill would take years to accomplish.

The Chairperson noted that the election of a suitable Board would assist in the revising of the entire Liquor Products Act over the next couple of years.

Mr S Abrahams (ANC) asked how the Minister would elect the selection committee, as well as how the committee would be composed. He noted that there were no provisions for selecting the selection committee in Section 2. He asserted that people specialised in oenology and viticulture needed to be members of the selection committee. He added that at times too much power was given to the Minister, authority that was sometimes not used appropriately.

Ms Nagiah replied that the election of a selection committee was at the discretion of the Minister.

Mr Botha agreed with Ms Nagiah, and said that the onus was on the Minister to choose a suitable selection committee. If the Minister chose an inadequate committee, section 2 of the Bill gave the Portfolio Committee the means to challenge the Minister’s selection.

Mr D Dlali (ANC) asked why the definition of grapes had been changed from ‘vinifera’ to ‘Vitis’.

Ms Nagiah answered that ‘Vitis’ was the accurate Binomial Classification that was used by the European Union (EU), and that it had been changed to enhance international compliance.

Ms C Nkuna (ANC) asked why some of the print was printed in bold and other parts of the print was underlined.

Ms Nagiah responded that the bold font indicated sections that were proposed to be deleted, and the underlined font were sections proposed to be inserted into the Bill.

Mr Abrahams noted that section 2(5)(a)’s provisions for legitimate vacation or dismissal of board members, the term ‘sound reasons’ was open to subjectivity and unfair dismissals.

Ms Nagiah indicated that only a court could determine what a sound reason for dismissal was and that there would have to be an empirical basis for a dismissal to be accepted as fair.

Mr Botha noted that the legal team’s proposal to add the sub-clause “fails to perform his or her duties in terms of this Act” was superfluous, as the clause was implicit if one were to consider the preceding sub-clause.

There was general agreement amongst the committee members, and the proposed amendment was rejected.

Mr Dlali asked why there had been the inclusion of powder substances in section 4(1)(b).

Ms Nagiah noted that street vendors had been selling an alcoholic powder that could be dissolved in water to children. There had been a loophole in the Bill regarding this matter, which needed to be covered by law.

Ms Nkuna commented that the vendors would find a way to evade the amended provision, and that they would probably develop a tablet to avoid prosecution. She suggested that all alcoholic products be added to the amendment.

Ms Nagiah agreed and noted that 4(1)(b) would be amended to incorporate “in any product, including but not limited to powder form”

Mr Abrahams asked why the language prescribing the production of wine was so convoluted in Section 5(1)(b)). He asked if there was a simpler manner of expressing the clause. He also enquired why there was such a large emphasis on ‘grapes’ as opposed to ‘wine’.

Ms Nagiah replied that the term ‘reconstituted’ was used by the EU to delineate the different means for making wine. She added that in order for the EU to accept the legislation, the three different methods of making wine had to be described in that manner. With regard to using the word ‘grapes’, Ms Nagiah noted that EU regulations did not accept imported wine made from any other fruit or item.

Mr Abrahams asked what informed the changes to the maximum penalties in section 23.

Ms Nagiah replied that they had been highlighted in bold and were going to be removed from the Act, as the penalty amounts would vary. She added that the penalty amounts were very small, especially for big wine farming companies. The minimum sentences would remain.

Due to the fact that a large number of committee members had already left the meeting, the Chairperson had to schedule another meeting for the 25 June in order to have a quorum to vote on the Bill.

The meeting was adjourned.

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