Alcohol offences


There is an inevitable increase in the consumption of alcohol and alcohol sales. Some drinkers tend to get carried away with the merriment of the season and overreach themselves by being a nuisance to society when they have consumed too much alcohol. Alcohol-related offences also invariably increase during festive periods.


Drink driving, sexual assault, assault in general, domestic violence and noise increase. Noise is the one of the biggest nuisances as party revellers and churches compete to outdo each other in the decibel stakes.

Public drinking and urination are also other nuisances related to alcohol consumption. Even during festivities alcohol drinkers should still endeavor to co-exist peacefully with other members of the society and behave with courtesy and discretion.

Drinking etiquette

The Liquor Act Chapter 14:11 prohibits the sale of liquor to drunk people. Licenced premises where liquor is sold are empowered to turn away or eject from their premises people who are visibly drunk or who are violent, quarrelsome or offensive. Bar managers and employees have a duty to sell liquor to patrons who can handle their drink.

It is irresponsible to sell or continue selling alcohol to people who have clearly reached their limits. This preserves the integrity of the drinking place and the other patrons.

When people become drunk beyond control disorder usually sets in. Allowing drunk people to continue drinking is detrimental to their own wellbeing and other patrons and staff. Anything can happen such as bar fights and people can get hurt and valuable property destroyed.

Drinking times

Licensed premises where alcohol is consumed operate within strict guidelines and times which must be adhered to. Section 80 prohibits the consumption of alcohol later than 30 minutes after the stipulated closing time. The selling outlet must give sufficient warning to patrons of their intention to stop selling liquor and close.

Some places will ring a bell; some will dip lights or relay the message in other ways but some do not. Selling alcohol beyond the allowed time stated in their liquor licence is an offence. Outlets in breach risk penalties such as suspension or cancellation of their licences.

It is obviously an irritation and inconvenience to patrons having a good time and only settling in for a bar to close.

Instead of kicking a fuss and forcing or bribing the outlet to continue selling they could move to other places with more flexible licenses such night clubs. It goes without saying that selling liquor to children is strictly prohibited and that children are not permitted to enter licensed premises in which alcohol is sold. This is in terms of Section 84. The adults facilitating any such prohibited conduct by minors are liable for prosecution.

Payment for alcohol

Licences premises are prohibited from giving alcohol away for free. All liquor should be sold unless it is done within reason for promotions such as sampling or prizes. People who habitually frequent drinking places to ask and beg for free alcohol are not to be allowed into the premises.

This may serve to discourage the problem of alcohol addiction and dependence. Similarly credit sales of alcohol are strictly prohibited in terms of Section 81. The sale of alcohol other than for immediate payment is prohibited.

People cannot run alcohol credit accounts and settle the bill at the end of the month like they do other consumables such as clothes and furniture. Barter trade, pledges or promises to pay for consumed alcohol are not allowed either. It is not allowed to work or perform other services in exchange for alcohol. Employers are prohibited from deducting part of their employee’s wages in respect of alcohol consumed during the month. This is a common practice in farms and mines.

Alcohol should only be paid for in exchange for immediate payment upon its supply and consumption. If the liquor is supplied to any person bona fide taking a meal on the licensed premises for consumption with and or immediately before the meal it is to be paid for after such meal.

Police powers to search and seize

Revellers and patrons need to note that uniformed police allowed to enter drinking premises at anytime on suspicion of illegal activities taking place therein.

They are empowered to enter any drinking establishment at any time and search and seize whatever may be of relevance to the issue. The police have powers to ask for names and details of every person found in the drinking place.

All patrons have an obligation to cooperate with any such exercise. If anyone refuses to furnish their personal details as demanded the police have powers to arrest that person. It is advised to co-operate to avoid ruining what was most probably a good time out.

It does not matter how posh or well-heeled the establishment as police powers are all encompassing regarding drinking establishments. They are allowed to enter and search any drinking premise at anytime without a search warrant.

It is also a criminal offense to obstruct or hinder any police officer or any member, inspector or other official from carrying out their duties in terms of the Act.

Public drinking

It is an offence to be drunk in or near any road, lane, thorough fare or market place. This means the police have the power to arrest any drunk people they find milling around in public places.

Drunk people are a potential danger to themselves and to other people and property. Drunk people are prohibited from shops, garages, places of entertainment and other places frequented by the public. It is an offence to be drunk on any aircraft, railway carriage, passenger vehicles like buses and commuter omnibuses. Section 116 strictly forbids the sale and consumption of liquor at any time at brothels and shebeens and other unlicensed premises or locations.

Intoxicating spirits are widely sold at street corners to street kids vendors and other members of the public against the law. Drinking is prohibited in public places such as near roads, public parks, in, out or around beer halls and any other public areas within local authority areas.

Public drinkers are routinely arrested and rounded up by the police and released upon payments of fines. Public drinking promotes antisocial behaviour such as public urination, noise, litter and harassment of innocent members amongst other vices.

It should be discouraged at all times and possibly the penalties be made more deterrent.

Miriam Tose Majome is a lawyer and a teacher. She can be contacted on

1 Comment

  1. Lizwi Lapha Ntuli

    I accept that this columnist did not author these liqour laws but eish they are funny. How do you judge that this person is too drunk to have more beer? In any case, what is the purpose of drinking beer? Is it not to get drunk?

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