South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday warned citizens against underage drinking, saying the country is losing its future generation to this “scourge.” He sounded the warning at the mass funeral for 21 young victims of last week’s tavern tragedy in East London, Eastern Cape Province. The youngest victim who died in this tragedy was 13 years old, and the country is still waiting for the result of toxicology.
Legal drinking in South Africa is 18 years old. Ramaphosa recalled major alcohol-related incidents that killed young women and children in the past, blaming underage drinking for alcohol-related violence, road accidents, driving drunk and unprotected sex.
“Alcohol is highly addictive. It is something to be consumed in moderation and responsibly, and only by those who are of the legal age to do so, and mature enough to handle its effects,” he said.
The president said South Africa has extensive laws to address and combat alcohol abuse but has to strengthen implementation, calling on all mayors to appoint Local Drug Action Committees in every ward and to give them the necessary support from the municipality. He also called on the Eastern Cape government and all of the provincial governments to step up implementation of their provincial drug master plans, with a renewed focus on outreach and public awareness-raising.