I remember fondly my days as a student. It was a time of great freedom. Unlike school days, there was no one to tell my when to go to bed, how long to study, which jacket to wear. Or how much to drink.
It was a liberating time, and there were casualties from drink and drugs. But very few. For most of us, it was an integral part of moving from our teens to adulthood. Beers in the bar and neighbourhood pubs were a delight, the very grown-up sherry and port at the debating society, the vile wine you took along to friends’ parties.
By 21, I was almost through university. The fun continued, but needed to be balanced by a bit of real studying and then real work.
But then I was not living in the nanny state which is the Utopian dream of our (teetotal) Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.
In his briefing today on public consultation on new liquor (and gambling) legislation, he made passing reference to the impact of the booze business to growth, employment and exports, without really seeming to understand the impact of wines and spirits, beer and cider on our general quality of life.
Not for nothing were record sums spent at the recent Cape Winemakers’ Guild Auction. Not for nothing will we all be flocking to the Sandton Winex expo later this month to sip and spit, enjoy and chat, live and laugh.
That’s the trouble with nannies; they are too bloody intent on spoiling our fun.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t approve of people driving when drunk, or (in most cases) murdering their spouses in drunken rage. But if you want to get pissed, you should be able to do so without some bearded spoilsport – who himself admitted during his briefing that he is fond of going to bed at 9 pm – sucking all the fun out of your glass and replacing it with milk or water.
In suggesting that South Africa might raise the legal age for purchasing alcohol to 21, Davies seems to believe that the Peter Pan pleasures of sobriety well past puberty are good for all.
What bollocks. If you apply his logic, a couple can get married well before they are 21, shag like rabbits, have several kids. And still be banned by Red Rob and his sober police from having a glass of bubbly at their wedding.
Don’t say people are old enough to go off and die for their country, but too young to have a beer.
This nonsense would never work in practice, and nor should it. People between 18 and 21 are adults. They should be treated as such.
To say that a higher drinking age works well elsewhere ignores our tradition and our own adherence to civilization.
Beheading people is a good crime deterrent in Saudi Arabia. That (arguably) does not mean it should be applied in Pretoria. And while some other countries find dogs and horses to be nutritious, I don’t want my butcher to expand his range that far.
Despite the Minister’s best efforts, there are some pockets of common sense in the new draft regulations. The introduction of civil liability for those who sell some more booze to someone who is already drunk and who then goes on to some horrid accident…seems to make sense.
But good luck in pursuing a case.
I am less impressed with his ideas for tighter zoning, and for restrictions on the hours when booze can be sold.
If it is that harmful, then ban it. If not, as with ciggies, you should be able to buy it around the clock.
I just worry about the forked tongues of our ministers who on the one hand praise the SA booze business for export achievements, while at the same time emphasizing its evil side.
Rob Davies wants comments from all strands of opinion, and I hope that the wine industry and other interested parties can be articulate and united enough to put forward a robust case.
And now, please excuse me. I need a drink. (And make it a double).