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South Africa - the challenge of alcohol abuse

18 November 2011

Alcohol abuse is a serious problem in South Africa. This is not in dispute. It is an area in which South Africa Breweries (SAB) is in 100% agreement with government. Families are being undermined, lives wasted and careers placed at risk. The abuse of alcohol is of no benefit to SAB, in fact, quite the contrary. The sustainability of our business and our industry is dependent on happy, healthy and prosperous communities where alcohol adds to the enjoyment of people's lives, rather than blighting them.  Consequently we have made a pledge and a commitment to work with government to find high impact, measurable solutions that address this scourge.

The challenge can sometimes be in finding common ground from which to work, particularly where the waters are muddied by incorrect or inflammatory statements.

SAB has spent more than R100million (£8 million) over the past two years on programmes that address alcohol abuse, focused on key areas such as drunk driving, underage drinking, Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and working with bar-owners on responsible trading. In many parts of our country, we have had a great working relationship with local municipalities, law enforcement agencies, provincial departments and non-governmental organisations. The initial results speak to the success of different parties bringing their skills into projects that have one common goal. Here, work has quietly being carrying on, with life changing interventions in communities that are in need.

Unfortunately, some facts have become distorted along the way. One such example is that SAB regularly delivers to unlicensed outlets or ‘shebeens'. We called for evidence of this to be submitted to the relevant authorities, so that the perpetrators can be arrested and prosecuted. To date we have had no substantiation and no evidence.

We are open to discussion with government at all levels, to find tangible ways to reduce the levels of alcohol abuse in our country. If there is an inability or unwillingness to work with industry, we will continue working with communities and those spheres of government committed to finding joint solutions.

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