President Cyril Ramaphosa has referred legislation impacting the production of traditional beer (umqombothi) back to Parliament, saying it should first be considered by the National House of Traditional Leaders.
The Liquor Products Amendment Bill proposed several minimum regulations on the production, packaging and sale of beer, including traditional beer.
But Ramaphosa, in a letter to National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise, said traditional beer is an intrinsic part of several cultural practices.
“Customary practices require its production and consumption be effected in a particular manner. It is my view that the Bill will regulate how traditional beer is produced and, as such, the Bill will affect its production, distribution and consumption,” Ramaphosa said.
Among the proposed changes, the Bill seeks to reconstitute the Wine and Spirit Board to include beer.
It also seeks to provide gender-equal terminology.
The Bill amends the Liquor Products Act, which controls the production and sale of liquor products in the country.
Those who brew home-made traditional beer needs to meet minimum regulations if that beer is for sale.
According to sections of the Bill, traditional beer shall be produced by the alcohol fermentation of malted grain of sorghum, maize, finger millet or pearl millet.
It must also be in a state of alcoholic fermentation, or not have its alcoholic fermentation arrested, and contain at least 4% solids derived from the grain or meal. It may also not contain or be flavoured with hops or any product derived from hops.
“Having applied my mind to the provisions of the Bill, I am of the view that the Bill should have been referred to the National House of Traditional Leaders in terms of Section 18(1)(a) of the Traditional Leaders and Governance Framework Act,” Ramaphosa said.
He said Section 18(1)(a) of the Act provides that any Parliamentary Bill pertaining to customary law or customs of traditional communities must be referred to the National House of Traditional Leaders, before it is passed by Parliament.
According to Ramaphosa, the Bill was not referred to the National House of Traditional Leaders because the State Law adviser recommended it was not necessary since the Bill did not contain provisions of customary law affecting communities.
“It is my view that the inclusion of traditional African beer in the Bill will have an impact on its production, consumption and dissemination and, as such, will have an impact on customary law or customs of African traditional communities.”
Ramaphosa also said the Constitution recognised the role of traditional leadership and its institutions in matters affecting communities.