How serious in alcohol use in South Africa?

Internationally, alcohol is responsible for 3,8% of global deaths and 4,5% of disability-adjusted life-years due to alcohol according to the World Drug Report (2019). Alcohol remains the dominant substance of use in the Eastern Cape and KZN. Between 15% (NR) and 35% (CR and EC) of persons in treatment had alcohol as a primary drug of use (SACENDU, 2019). The Central Drug Authority (CDA) estimate that 7,5% of the population engages in risky drinking over the weekends and 31,5% of the population aged between 25 and 45 engages in “binge drinking” consuming 9 tots of spirits, a bottle or more of wine or more than two litres of beer a day. The average person in South Africa consumes 20 litres of alcohol per year and this is one of the highest rates in the world. The incidence of Foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) in our Country is one of the highest in the World (Stein, Ellis, Meintjes and Thomas, 2012.


What impact did the probation of the sale of alcohol have on South Africans?

The prohibition of the sale of alcohol during levels 3 to 5 of the lockdown during the Covid-19 Pandemic further reinforced that South Africans have a problematic relationship with alcohol use. The desperation was seen in the making of homebrew concoctions, illegal trade in alcohol and robberies of liquor stores. Families that were now isolated could now experience the impact of addiction. The lifting of the prohibition on alcohol sales during level 3 of lockdown further raised concerns about the increase in crime and gender-based violence.


Whom does alcohol use affect the youth?

The average age of drug dependency in South Africa is 12 years and decreasing. The South African youth are particularly vulnerable to the experimentation and long-term use of substances (whether it be alcohol, illicit drugs, or even over-the-counter and prescription medication). This was echoed in the AB InBev Foundation commissioned youth survey indicating that almost 50% of adolescents have drunk alcohol before turning 18 and that 6% of children as young as 12 are drinking. 

Jessica Shelver, the spokesperson to the Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer, reported on research that was conducted in Western Cape schools. Urine tests were conducted with 145 primary school learners and 655 high school learners in 2018. The results showed that 57.9% of primary school learners and 72.9% of high school learners who were tested for drugs, tested positive that were suspended from school for substance use. The 2nd South African National Risk Behaviour Survey (2008 published in 2010) was conducted in 23 schools per province with 10,270 participants.

The results showed that 1 in 3 learners have smoked cigarettes; 1 in 5 are current smokers; 1 in 2 of learners have drunk alcohol; their first drink was before 13 and their first cigarette was before 10; higher grades (59% grade 11’s) and male learners are more likely to use alcohol; Western Cape Province was 71% and Gauteng Province was 65,1% that is well over the national average of 49,6%.   The learners (28,5%) are engaging in drinking more than once a week and binge drinking. 12,7% of learners used alcohol on the school premises. This survey was done 10 years ago and the same trends are still seen.


What impact does alcohol use and misuse have on Alexandra Township?

The impact on Alexandra Township is well illustrated in the research report provided by Jorgensen and Snyder (2019) from Instant Grass International, Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business on the Youth in Alexandra Township. The Alexandra township suffers from complex societal ills affecting the well-being of its citizens due to the Apartheid’s racial and economic segregation causing current high levels of unemployment; informal and inadequate housing and infrastructure, crime and violence and high levels of the use of legal and illegal substances like alcohol. Children and adolescents are exposed to underage drinking due to the availability, accessibility through sales; inadequate role models at home and in the community; social status symbol for adolescents (Jorgensen and Snyder, Instant Grass International Report, 2019). The study showed that children and adolescents could easily access alcohol and had very little or no parental controls. The community at large has a drinking culture that influences the youth and creates an “acceptable” norm for underage drinking. It is a very poor township that is plagued with a 60% estimated unemployment rate. The impact of Covid-19 must also be considered here as this report was conducted in 2019 before the pandemic. There are inadequate housing and lack of proper infrastructure. There is overcrowding of 500,000 people estimated to live in 100,000 households in formal and informing housing. The Alexandra and Thembisa Alcohol Outlet Survey (May, 2020) identified 344 alcohol outlets, 244 shebeens; 57 bars; 33 liquor stores; 8 restaurants. There is one outlet for every 439 adults in Alexandra. This is a very high number and this RBS Initiative will assist with some of the challenges identified in this research report.


What is the RBS initiative in Alexandra?

RBS is a community-based approach to reducing the risks associated with the sale of alcohol funded by the ABinBev Foundation.



SANCA National will coordinate the RBS (Responsible Beverage Service) Initiative in Alexandra Township to prevent the sales of alcohol to minors; reduce excessive alcohol consumption and address other alcohol-related harms at the community level through the development, networking/liaison and implementation of a variety of demand and harm reduction strategies and activities over a one year period starting from 1 January 2021 and ending 31 December 2021.



  • Objective 1:  To coordinate, liaise and develop the RBS (Responsible Beverage Service) Initiative in Alexandra Township through the establishment of the I-love-Alex Community Action Board (CAB). 

  • Objective 2: To develop pre-and post-assessment baseline instruments in partnership with the research unit of SAB for monitoring and evaluation purposes. 

  • Objective 3: To review, inform, guide and monitor the Local Laws and Regulations on Responsible Beverage services in Alexandra’s liquor traders.

  • Objective 4: To assist identified liquor traders with low-cost security upgrades to the infrastructure and partner with other businesses regarding secure parking for customers.

  • Objective 5: To develop and design RBS training programmes on alcohol 101 information; behaviour change training; and RBS Detection and Customer Service Program for 60 people representing the liquor traders.

  • Objective 6: To provide training workshops to 60 people from the licenced liquor traders once a week over a 10 weeks period.

  • Objective 7: To coordinate the training sessions on the regulations and compliance according to the relevant Acts to owners/managers and staff by the Gauteng Liquor Board.

  • Objective 8: To coordinate the prevision of micro-enterprise business training sessions to owners by the SAB management section. 

  • Objective 9: To provide a refresher course to owners, managers and service staff of liquor traders in Alexandra.

  • Objective 10: To develop an RBS Behaviour Detection and Customer Service Program for law enforcement and provide a training workshop to selected SAPS and JMPD officers responsible for Alexandra.

  • Objective 11: To coordinate an I-love-Alex community campaign by collaborating with local businesses, community members and other stakeholders. 

  • Objective 12: To Coordinate RBS with ABIF Programs.

  • Objective 13: To design and implement an effective communication campaign for the RBS Initiative in Alexandra.


The diagram below explains the process of the I-Love-Alex RBS Initiative that is based on the CADCA Model that is an Internationally recognised best practice approach through the involvement of all sectors of a community come together, social change happens.

Diagram 1: I-Love-Alex RBS Initiative in Alexandra

The RBS initiative will address some of the concerns raised in the report and will reduce the sales of alcohol to minors, pregnant woman and intoxicated customers through training and skills development of liquor traders from owners, managers, staff as well as law enforcement officers from SAPS and JMPD. The harms caused by irresponsible and excessive alcohol use will be reduced by offering a collaborative approach between all stakeholders to implement community campaigns to start changing attitudes, beliefs and behaviours regarding the harmful and risky use of alcohol.