Successful SAAPA FORUM

Throughout two days in March, almost 30 participants from the member countries participated at the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) FORUM. A new regional board was elected with representatives from the different country chapters.

March 10 and 11 2022 the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) met (virtually) for its FORUM (held every three years) with participants from all member countries; Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. Also, representatives from the newly re-established Malawi chapter of the alliance were present as observers in the FORUM as part of the process of re-entering the alliance after a few years without participation.

Increased activity

For the FORUM, all country chapters had prepared reports assessing their countries’ alcohol policy situation and the country chapter’s organisational progress. The reports showed how the chapters have increased their activities the past year despite the ongoing Covid-19-pandemic, and that there were two main activities.

Firstly, advocacy to progress the process of getting alcohol policies and legislation adopted and implemented in the countries. Second, campaigns to bring awareness on the harm from alcohol use. The Memory Quilt Campaign, in honour of those whose lives were lost due to alcohol, is a regional campaign. Botswana and Lesotho have been particularly active in using the memory quilt in their campaigning (see below).

SAAPA Lesotho members holding the memory quilt where each patch symbolises a person whose life was lost to alcohol. Photo: Mothobi Molefi
Policy challenges

The country reports also showed how the SAAPA countries are facing similar policy challenges. For the four countries that have policies in place – South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, and Botswana – implementation, legislative alignment, and resourcing are the main challenges. At the same time industry pushback is increasing, and this is visible across the countries in the alliance.

This means that the industry remains vigilant and responds very quickly when policies or regulatory measures are proposed. This was the case in Zimbabwe, where the Covid measures, including regulations on alcohol, were withdrawn within 24 hours after the announcement as a result of industry lobbying. In South Africa, the alcohol industry has been successful in stalling the adoption of the Liquor Licensing Bill with the argument that there is a need for yet another socio-economic impact assessment of the bill. 

Going forward

The SAAPA members also spent a significant amount of time in the FORUM looking ahead, and six topics were identified for the regional alliance to focus on – among them are the issue of liquor sachets in the region, advocacy on advertising restrictions, and the implementation of an alcohol levy in the different countries.

For the regional alliance, the next big happening is the Global Alcohol Policy Conference 2023 in Cape Town, which the alliance is co-hosting.  

New board elected

The last item on the agenda was elections to the regional board. The old board, headed by chairperson Philip Chimponda, was thanked for their contributions, and a new board was elected with representatives from the different country chapters. The new board officials are:

  • Chairperson – Prisca Mokgadi  (Botswana)
  • Vice-chairperson – Efraim Hamukoto (Namibia) 
  • Secretary – Thabo Mokhutsoane (Lesotho)
  • Treasurer – Sue Goldstein (SA)
  • Public Relations Officer – Masimba Biriwasha (Zimbabwe) 
New chairperson of the regional SAAPA alliance, Prisca Mokgadi, from Botswana.

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