Public appeal to Government: Urgent measures to curb the abuse of alcohol linked to gender-based violence

View an update at the bottom of the page.

The Covid-19 epidemic has shone a light again on the value of each human life, and the message from our leaders is that lives must be saved through urgent and radical action. In his speech to the nation on Wednesday 17 June 2020, President Ramaphosa stated that, especially in the light of the unbridled violence against women and children, “we will also need to look at further, more drastic measures to curb the abuse of alcohol”.

Gender-based violence is driven by gender inequality, made worse by social and economic marginalisation, failures of policing and justice, and the abuse of drugs and alcohol. No single intervention will address it, and we must tackle all of these factors at the same time.  We note the steps that have been taken as part of the National Strategic Plan to Combat Gender-Based Violence.  We also agree with the President that it “is not alcohol that rapes or kills a woman or a child.  Rather, it is the actions of violent men.  But if alcohol intoxication is contributing to these crimes, then it must be addressed with urgency”.

In this regard, there are a number of ‘best buy’ measures that the World Health Organization has identified which are highly cost-effective, feasible and implementable at low cost[1],[2]. These are not drastic measures. They make both economic and social sense and need to be implemented as a matter of urgency.  They include:

  1. A ban on advertising of alcohol (except on the site of sale, where it should not be visible to those under 18 years).
  2. Increase the price of alcohol, both through excise taxes and by introducing a minimum price per unit of pure alcohol in liquor products.
  3. Reduce the legal limit for drinking and driving to a blood alcohol content of 0.02% or below.
  4. Reduce the availability of alcohol, especially in residential areas (by limiting the density of liquor outlets, shorter trading hours, and ending the sale of alcohol in larger containers like 1 litre bottles of beer).
  5. Intensify the availability of counselling and medically assisted treatment for persons struggling with dependence.[3]

Binge-drinking is a strong proximate risk factor for violence against women and children, and a notable contributor to intimate femicide[4]. 50-60% of South African men who drink alcohol drink in heavy, episodic ways (> 5 units at one time).[5], [6] Alcohol is an acknowledged factor in perpetration of more than 40% of rape[7]. In addition, binge-drinking is strongly associated with interpersonal violence, motor vehicle accidents and risk-taking behaviour. These associations are even stronger in poorer communities than wealthier ones.

The measures described above have been shown to significantly reduce the societal harm of alcohol and should be supported by other interventions shown to be effective, including raising the legal drinking age to nineteen years and ensuring that product tracking and tracing is in place to close the supply routes to illegal vendors. These provisions are included in the Draft Liquor Amendment Bill. We call on the government to proceed with the implementation of this Bill and other legislation aimed at reducing alcohol harm such as the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill.

Equally critical is effective enforcement of national and provincial legislation and local by-laws, including adherence to trading hours, prevention of underage drinking, confiscation of alcohol sold at illegal outlets and restrictions on public drinking.[8]

The alcohol industry will point to its contribution to GDP of about 3% per year, and we recognise its benefits to the local economy and the value of its exports. However, this contribution does not take into account its costs to society and the economy. Alcohol causes the deaths of 62000 South Africans every year.[9] When the direct costs of alcohol-related crime and injuries are factored in, the net economic benefit of the industry is halved (to about 1.5% of GDP). When alcohol-related premature morbidity and mortality is factored in, the net contribution is negative. In other words, the alcohol industry costs the country more than it contributes to the economy.[10] These costs stem largely from excessive drinking that is not sufficiently curbed by legislation and policy.

Reducing the benefit and harm of alcohol to economic terms alone masks the devastating effect on the lives of families and individuals harmed through the abuse of alcohol.  The liquor industry and lobby groups will point to individual freedoms and rights. We agree. This is a critical consideration, and it is the role of government to ensure that the freedoms and rights of one part of society is not upheld to the detriment of another. None of the interventions above are intended to restrict responsible alcohol use and social drinking. They are aimed at curbing the harm of excessive drinking. We can no longer allow poorer people, and women and children in particular to bear the costs of alcohol abuse.

Many of the individuals and organisations described below have undertaken substantial research with respect to the potential impact and viability of implementation of the measures described above.  We would be pleased to work with government to inform the drafting of the relevant legislation and policies.

Support as institutions:

  • South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)
  • Chronic Disease Initiative for Africa at the University of Cape Town (CDIA)
  • DG Murray Trust (DGMT)
  • Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA)


(This document, with its signatories, is shared with the media and members of Government, including the President. To be added as a signatory click here. To sign and share a public petition via to mobilise large scale public support, please click here).  

Total number of signatories at 10:32  29/06/2020: 164 (This list is updated a number of times a day)

Category: Academic/research/medical
  1. Prof Glenda Gray, President, South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)
  2. Prof Charles Parry, Director: Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drug Research Unit, SAMRC
  3. Ms Jane Simmonds, Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drug Research Unit, SAMRC
  4. Prof Rob Warren, Unit Director: Centre for Tuberculosis, SAMRC 
  5. Mr Brinton Spies, Executive Director: Human Resources, SAMRC
  6. Prof Andre Pascal Kengne, Non-Communicable Diseases Research Unit SAMRC
  7. Mr Wisdom Basera, Epidemiologist, SAMRC
  8. Ms Rifqah Roomaney, Senior Scientist, Burden of Disease Research Unit, SAMRC
  9. Prof Angela Mathee, Director: Environment & Health Research Unit, SAMRC
  10. Dr Arvin Bhana, Director: Environment & Health Research Unit, SAMRC
  11. Dr Pam Groenewald, Specialist Scientist Public Health, Burden of Disease Research Unit, SAMRC
  12. Ms June Teare, Senior Scientist, Environment & Health Research Unit, SAMRC
  13. Ms Busisiwe Shezi, Senior Scientist, Environment & Health Research Unit, SAMRC
  14. Mr Sulaiman Abrahams, IT Admin Burden of Disease Research Unit, SAMRC
  15. Dr Catherine Mathews, Director: Health Systems Research Unit, SAMRC
  16. Prof Jeffrey Mphahlele, Vice President for Research, SAMRC
  17. Prof Richard Matzopoulos, Co-Director: Burden of Disease Research Unit (SAMRC); Honorary Professor, UCT School of Public Health 
  18. Prof Susan Fawcus, Emeritus Professor and senior Scholar, Dept Obstetrics and Gynaecology, UCT; and Peoples Health Movement
  19. Dr Virginia Zweigenthal, Public health specialist, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, UCT and Health Impact Assessment, Western Cape Department of Health (WCDoH)
  20. Prof Hassan Mahomed, Public Health Medicine Specialist, WCDoH / Division of Health Systems and Public Health, Stellenbosch University
  21. Prof Leslie Swartz, Distinguished Professor: Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University  
  22. Dr Lizahn Cloete, Medicine and Health Sciences, Division of Occupational Therapy, Stellenbosch University
  23. Prof Soraya Seedat, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University
  24. Prof Keymanthri Moodley, Professor and Director, Centre for Medical Ethics and Law, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University
  25. Prof Leslie London, School of Public Health and family Medicine, University of Cape Town (UCT)
  26. Prof Mohamed Jeebhay, School of Public Health and family Medicine,  UCT
  27. Prof Andrew Boulle, School of Public Health and family Medicine,  UCT
  28. Dr Tracey Naledi, Division of Health Medicine, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, UCT
  29. Dr Morna Cornell, Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, UCT
  30. Dr Shahieda Adams, Division of Occupational Medicine, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, UCT
  31. Prof David Coetzee, Division of Occupational Medicine, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, UCT
  32. Dr Nisha Jacob, Division of Occupational Medicine, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, UCT
  33. Dr Chivaugn Gordon, Head, Undergraduate Obstetrics & Gynecology, UCT
  34. Dr Peter Delobelle, Senior Researcher, Chronic Disease Initiative for Africa, UCT
  35. Prof Corne van Walbeek, Professor of Economics and Director of Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products (REEP), UCT
  36. Ms Nicole Vellios, Researcher, Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products, UCT
  37. Dr Hana Ross, Principal Research Officer, REEP, UCT
  38. Ms Tali Cassidy, HIV Epidemiologist, Médecins Sans Frontières, Khayelitsha
  39. Prof Martin Smith, Academic Head of the Department of Surgery, University of the Witwatersrand (WITS)
  40. Prof Jane Goudge, Centre for Health Policy, School of Public Health, WITS
  41. Prof Karen Hofman, Director Priceless SA, SA MRC/Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science, School of Public Health, WITS
  42. Prof Brett Bowman, Professor and Assistant Dean (Humanities Research), School of Human and Community Development, WITS
  43. Dr Nechama Brodie, Researcher and lecturer, WITS
  44. Prof Gillian Eagle, Department of Psychology, WITS
  45. Prof Gill Nelson, Head: Occupational Health Division, School of Public Health, WITS
  46. Prof David Rees, Emeritus Professor, WITS
  47. Dr Harsha Somaroo, Public Health Specialist, Department of Community Health, WITS School of Public Health/ Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital
  48. Prof Yousuf Vawda, School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)
  49. Dr Velile Ngidi, Public Health Medicine Registrar, UKZN
  50. Prof Saloshni Naidoo, Associate Professor/ Head of Department, Public Health Medicine, School of Nursing and Public Health, College of Health Sciences, UKZN
  51. Ms Mary de Haas, Honorary Research Fellow, School of Law UKZN
  52. Dr Waarisa Fareed, Private Practitioner 
  53. Prof Willem Hanekom, Director, Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI)
  54. Prof Helen Schneider, School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape 
  55. Dr Anam Nyembezi, School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape 
  56. Prof Michael Pepper, School of Medicine, Department Immunology, University of Pretoria
  57. Dr Sherianne Kramer, Amsterdam University College
  58. Dr Saiendhra Moodley, Public Health Medicine Specialist, School of Health Systems and Public Health
  59. Prof Francis Hyera, HOD – Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Walter Sisulu University
  60. Ms Jane Simmonds, Programme Manager- goGOGOgo, SAMRC
  61. Dr Wanga Zembe-Mkabile, Programme Manager- goGOGOgo, SAMRC
  62. Ms Trisha Ramraj, Scientist, SAMRC
  63. Ms Neetha Shagan Morar, Research Manager, HIV Prevention Research Unit (HPRU), SAMRC
  64. Mr Zakir Gaffoor, Clinical Research Site Leader, SAMRC
  65. Mr Naren Dhoodhanath, Human Resources Generalist, SAMRC
  66. Dr Terusha Chetty, Specialist Scientist, SAMRC
  67. Ms Olive Gumede, Finance Manager, SAMRC
  68. Mr Sindisiwe Hlangu, Data collector, SAMRC
  69. Ms Kubashni Woeber, Laboratory Scientist Manager, SAMRC
  70. Ms Inathi Maxhakana, Senior Research Technologist, SAMRC
  71. Dr Brodie Daniels, Senior Scientist, SAMRC
  72. Ms Kerusha Chunderduri, Regulatory and Quality Coordinator, HPRU, SAMRC 
  73. Dr Naeemah Abrahams, Interim Unit Director, SAMRC
  74. Prof Tina Steiner, Associate Professor of English Studies, Stellenbosch University 
  75. Dr Grieve Chelwa, Senior Lecturer, UCT
  76. Prof Kopano Ratele, SAMRC-Unisa Masculinity and Health Research Unit, University of South Africa
  77. Prof Lynn Morris, Executive Director (interim), National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)
  78. Dr Elizabeth Spooner, Interim Deputy Director HPRU, SAMRC
  79. Prof Samuel Manda, Director: Biostatistics Research Unit, SAMRC
  80. Prof Charles S Wiysonge, Director: Biostatistics Research Unit, SAMRC
  81. Dr Moeketsi Modisenyane, President, Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA)
  82. Dr Harsha Somaroo, Vice President PHASA
  83. Dr Natisha Dukhi, Board member, PHASA
  84. Prof Stephen Hendriks, Board member, PHASA
  85. Mr Tawanda Chivese, Board member, PHASA
  86. Dr Thameshree Naidu, Board member, PHASA
  87. Dr Mohammed Ishaaq Datay, Chairperson: PHASA health promotion SIG
  88. Mr Mbongeleni Buthelezi, Health Counselor, SAMRC
  89. Dr Makandwe Nyirenda, Demographer, SAMRC
  90. Mr Praba Govender, SHE Officer, SAMRC
  91. Dr Fareed Abdullah, CTU Programme Director, HIV Prevention Unit, SAMRC
  92. Prof Debbie Bradshaw, Director: Burden of Disease Research Unit, SAMRC
  93. Prof Ameena Goga, Interim Unit Director: HIV Prevention Research Unit, SAMRC
  94. Mr Mzimhle Berrange Popo, General Counsel, SAMRC
  95. Dr Mongezi Mdhluli, Chief Research Operations Officer, SAMRC
  96. Prof Sarah Skeen, Department of Global Health, Stellenbosch University
  97. Assoc Prof Simone Honikman, Director: Perinatal Mental Health Project, UCT
  98. Dr Nimi Hoffmann, Lecturer, University of Sussex
  99. Prof Fiona Ross, Professor of Anthropology, UCT
  100. Prof Andrew Spiegel, Emeritus Associate Professor, Antropology, UCT
  101. Ms Lori Lake, Communication and education specialist, Children’s Institute, UCT
  102. Ms Neziswa Titi, Researcher, Children’s Institute, UCT
  103. Ms Thanya April, Counsellor, The Perinatal Mental Health Project, UCT
  104. Prof Martha Van Der Walt, Director, Tuberculosis Research Platform, SAMRC
  105. Assoc Prof Helen Macdonald, Anthropology, UCT
  106. Ms Elise Farley, Epidemiologist, UCT
  107. Emeritus Prof P L A Bill, Emeritus Professor of Neurology, UKZN
  108. Dr Alfred Thutloa, Head of Corporate Communications, SAMRC
  109. Ms Neziswa Ntante, Transcriber, Institute for Life Course Health Research, Stellenbosch University
  110. Dr Takalani Grace, Senior Lecturer, University of Venda
  111. Ms Pakeezah Rajab, Research Psychologist, Psychological Society of South Africa
  112. Mr Gareth Newham, Head of the Justice and Violence Prevention Programme, Institute for Security Studies
  113. Ms Emmanuelle Daviaud, Senior Specialist Scientist, SAMRC
  114. Dr. Chandré Gould, Senior research fellow, Institute for Security Studies
  115. Ms NKhensani Golele, Lecturer, Univen
  116. Dr Pieter Aartsma, Psychiatrist (private practitioner)
  117. Ms Tirhani Masia, Lecturer, University of Venda
Category: Government
  1. Mr Moeketsi Modisenyane, Director: International Relations and Support, National Department of Health
  2. Prof Lukas Muntingh, Board member,Western Cape Liquor Authority (WCLA)
  3. Dr Laurine Platzky, Board member, WCLA
  4. Ms Undere Deglon, Board member, WCLA
  5. Ms Lizanne Venter, Board member, WCLA
  6. Ms Karen Harrison, Cities Support Programme, Economic Development Lead
Category: Civil Society
  1. Dr John Volmink, Chairperson, DG Murray Trust (DGMT)
  2. Dr Mvuyo Tom, Deputy Chairperson, DGMT 
  3. Dr David Harrison, Chief Executive Officer, DGMT 
  4. Dr Hugo Nelson, Trustee, DGMT
  5. Prof Michael Kahn, Trustee, DGMT
  6. Ms Diane McCann, Trustee, DGMT
  7. Ms Carol-Ann Foulis, Director, DGMT
  8. Ms Iris Nxumalo-De Smidt, Innovation Manager, DGMT
  9. Ms Judy-Marie Smith, Director, DGMT
  10. Ms Onesisa Mtwa, Innovation Manager, DGMT
  11. Mr Kayin Scholtz, ECD Resource Hub Manager, DGMT
  12. Dr Colin Almeleh, Executive Director, Ilifa Labantwana
  13. Ms Amanda Edwards, Education Researcher & Performance Analyst, DGMT
  14. Ms Nokuthula Futwa, Programme Manager, DGMT
  15. Ms Jade Jacobsohn, Social impact and sustainability consultant
  16. Ms Nicole Biondi, Head of Marketing and Communication, Innovation Edge
  17. Ms Julie Mentor, Movement Leader, Embrace, the movement for mothers
  18. Ms Rumbi Goredema Görgens, Operations Manager, Embrace 
  19. Dr Kopano Matlwa Mabaso, Executive Director, Grow Great
  20. Dr Claudine Bill, Medical doctor, Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Trust
  21. Dr Ingrid le Roux, Director, Philani Maternal Child Health and Nutrition Trust
  22. Ms Nokwanele Mbewu, Senior Programme Manager, Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Trust
  23. Ms Sinazo Nkwelo, Programmes Integration Specialist, DGMT
  24. Ms Maggie Marx, Research Uptake Officer, Centre for Public Mental Health at UCT
  25. Ms Sonja Giese, Executive Director, Innovation Edge
  26. Ms Merle Mansfield, Programme Director, Zero Dropout Campaign
  27. Ms Lynn Hendricks, Director, Research Ambition
  28. Ms Leanne Porter, Embrace
  29. Ms Anja Hertong, Practice Manager, Charis 
  30. Ms Nozuko Matiso, Masiphuhlisane
  31. Mr Timothy Mohlala, Board Member, Just like Heaven
  32. Ms Thea Jarvis, Founder/Director, The Love of Christ (TLC) Children’s Home
  33. Ms Magdalena Malebogang, Boitumelo creche
Category: Corporate/Industry/Private
  1. Mr Heinrich Marsh, Accountant (private)
  2. Ms Wendy Wiles, Proofreader/Editor (private)
  3. Mr Robin Bleekers, Foundation Associate, Letsema
  4. Ms Lettie Miles, Education consultant (private)
  5. Mr Mathew Kennedy, (private)
  6. Mr Peet Voster, Industrial Psychologist, JVR Africa
  7. Ms Amanda Frost, Recovering alcoholic
  8. Ms F B Ronquest-Ross, Director, B1zHero Consulting

Total number of signatories at 10:32  29/06/2020: 164 (This list is updated a number of times a day)

To be added as a signatory click here. To sign and share a public petition via to mobilise large scale public support, please click here).

UPDATE – 21 July 2020

The appeal was sent to various government departments, parliamentary portfolio committees and political parties. One such recipient was Ms Thandi Modise, Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa. We await further feedback from all recipients who have sent similar letters to ascertain next steps so that this appeal gains traction. View her letter here.

[1] World Health Organisation (2020). Management of alcohol abuse: Enforce bans or comprehensive restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship, and promotion.

[2] World Health Organisation (2018). WHO launches SAFER alcohol control initiative to prevent and reduce alcohol-related death and disability.

[3] Chisholm D, Moro D, Bertram M, Pretorius C, Gmal G, Shield K, Rehm J (2018). Are the “best buys” for alcohol control still valid? An update of the comparative cost effectiveness of alcohol control strategies at the global level.  Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 514-522

[4] Mathews S, Abrahams N, Jewkes R, Martin LJ, Lombard C Alcohol use and its role in female homicides in the Western Cape, South Africa. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 2009; 70(3): 321-327

[5] National Department of Health (NDoH), Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), South African Medical Research

Council (SAMRC) & ICF. (2017). South African Demographic and Health Survey 2016: Key indicators report.

Pretoria, South Africa, and Rockville, Maryland, USA.

[6] Probst C, Shuper P, Rehm J (2016).  Coverage of alcohol consumption by national surveys in South Africa.   Addiction 112:705-710

[7] Jewkes R, Sikweyiya Y, Morrell R, Dunkle K. (2011) Gender inequitable masculinity and sexual entitlement in rape perpetration South Africa: findings of a cross-sectional study  PLoS One  6(12): e29590. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029590

[8] Matzopoulos R, Bloch K, Bowman B, Lloyd S,  Berens C, Myers J, Thompson ML. 2020. Urban upgrading and levels of interpersonal violence in Cape Town, South Africa: the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading Programme. Social Science & Medicine 255: 112978.

[9] Probst C, Parry C, Wittchen H-U, Rehm J (2018) The socio-economic profile of alcohol attributable mortality: A modelling study. BMC Medicine 16:97

[10] Matzopoulos R, Truen S, Bowman B and Corrigall J (2014.  The cost of harmful alcohol use in South Africa. South African Medical Journal Vol 104 (2): 127-132

Share this post

Get the latest news & updates:

Select the specific themes and topics that interest you:

Other news and articles:

Hands-on Learning Issue 27

Through the newly rebranded edition of our Hands-on Learning publication developed in June 2023, we hope to play a helpful role in synthesising information from

Read More »

Using incentives for change

The Learning Lunch podcast explores ideas, approaches and social innovations – creating opportunity for non-profit organisations’ teams to discover what others are learning and space

Read More »