Protect children from alcohol, drug abuse

Monday, July 4, 2022

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on civil society, government and communities to come together to fight the scourge of underage drinking in South Africa.

This in the wake of the tragedy in which 21 young people - some as young as 13 - died at the Enyobeni Tavern at Scenery Park in the Eastern Cape in the early hours of Sunday morning, recently. 

In his weekly letter to the nation this morning, the President said the growing trend of underage drinking is not only illegal but also psychologically and physically detrimental.

"The increased social acceptability of young people drinking alcohol has become a serious problem in a country where the majority of the drinking population are already classified by the World Health Organisation as binge drinkers.

"Alcohol use amongst adolescents is associated with impaired function, absenteeism from learning, alcohol-related injuries, suicidal thoughts and attempts, and risky behaviour," he said.

Investigations into the tragedy by the South African Police Service and the Eastern Cape provincial government are already well underway.

"We must come together to combat this vice that is robbing our young people of the best years of their lives and making them susceptible to alcohol addiction.

"As families it means having open and frank conversations about alcohol and setting boundaries. Children under the age of 18 consuming alcohol is against the law.

"As adults we should refrain from practices such as sending minors to buy alcohol for us or capitulating to requests to buy these young people alcohol," President Ramaphosa said.

The President acknowledged that the abuse of alcohol by children "is a form of escapism" in communities where "opportunities for safe and age-appropriate recreation are few".

"In the wake of the tragedy, the community has pointed out that there are no viable sports grounds, community libraries or youth centres in Scenery Park.

"As government at national, provincial and local level we need to respond to the pleas of this community and those of other communities by developing more recreational spaces, facilities, programmes, and projects for our young people in disadvantaged areas in the province," he said.

President Ramaphosa reiterated his call for all South Africans to come together against alcohol abuse in children.

"As communities we must work with our Community Policing Forums, with our civic organizations and with our school governing bodies and play a more active role in the lives of our children and in ensuring their safety and well-being.

"Let us work together to protect our precious future generation from the ravages of alcohol and drug abuse and their effects.

"Let us work together to ensure that those who put profit before the lives of our children are not allowed to operate. Let us also set a positive example in our own relationship with alcohol," he said. -