Ire over Gordhan’s liquor tax.

South Africa Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s increase on liquor and tobacco tax by 6 to 8.5 percent has sparked ire from most social partners including the opposition. The higher-than-wished-for increases on the socio-violent stuff is perceived to be a gesture by the Government to curb widespread use of alcohol, especially by youth. But it presents a sharp pinch to the drinking public who cannot be persuaded overnight at best, or be coerced pronto at worst, to drop the habit.

Opposition parties including Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Congress of the People (Cope) and Democratic Alliance (DA) are likely to include this matter in their arsenal to discredit the ANC-led Government. Organizations directly involved in liquor trade are likely to add their voices to register their concerns.

South Africa is not the first and only country to attempt measures at legislative level to achieve a low-level alcohol-consuming nation. It is every nation’s dream to attain that ideal, given the negative contributory paint that the use and abuse of alcohol is associated with in society. Social ills such as family violence, public indecency and crime in general are linked to use of liquor or other kinds of drugs. The majority of road accidents – 80% of which are fatal – are caused by drunken driving.

Former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachov included a remarkable portion of measures to drive down the use of liquor in his programme of Glasnost en Perestroika. It was a risky if not unpopular act by a sitting leader in a milieu where the Vodka seemed to enjoy a spot at the centre of economic development.

Gordhan knows fully well that tampering with the liquor nest will out the hornets. There will be outcries that the taxation may hamper social responsibilities that the liquor industry provides; including in sports development and job creation, for instance. But the debate in favour of slighting liquor overuse and abuse with its attendant problems wins the day. It’s a moral issue.





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