Fikile Mbalula
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula. Photo: GCIS
  • Draft legislation which will prohibit South Africans from consuming any alcohol before driving should be in place by December, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Tuesday. 
  • The amendment effectively seeks to ban anyone who has had a drink from operating a motor vehicle, until no alcohol can be detected in their blood or on their breath.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africa should have a drunk-driving limit of zero by December, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Tuesday. 

The National Road Traffic Amendment Bill was approved by Cabinet in March this year, with a promise that it would take a tough line on driving under the influence.

Despite delays in lawmaking caused by the coronavirus disaster, that draft law was released in June, and it effectively seeks to ban anyone who has had a drink from operating a motor vehicle, until no alcohol can be detected in their blood or on their breath.

The Bill does not alter the methods of testing, penalties, or any other part of current legislation that deals with drink-driving. It simply scratches out the sections of the current law that specifies the permitted level of alcohol for drivers.

That is less than 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres, or for professional drivers less than 0.02 grams per 100 millilitres, when measured via blood sample.

When measured by breathalyser, the current measure is 0.24 milligrams per 1,000 millilitres, and for professional drivers it is set at 0.10 milligrams per 1,000 millilitres.

That removal has the effect of introducing "a total prohibition for the use and consumption of alcohol by all motor vehicle operators on South African public roads", says the Bill's explanatory memorandum.

Many factors influence how fast alcohol is metabolisedincluding weight and whether you are eating with your booze. It will typically take around three hours to break down the alcohol in a single glass of wine, but "a few drinks" on a night out could still leave traces of alcohol in blood the next morning.

Mbalula said at a press conference on Tuesday that the draft law will now be submitted to the parliamentary portfolio committee for transport, with the expectation that it will be passed into law before parliament is dismissed at the end of the year.

"It means that by December this year (there must be) no alcohol in your blood (when you drive)," Mbalula said.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet and Helena Wasserman)

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