The Western Cape Provincial Administration is invoking its rights to draw up new liquor legislation following a Constitution Court ruling last year that national legislation imposed on provincial competencies.

An initial policy document has been drawn up, which on one hand wants to make the alcoholic beverage industry more accessible, while imposing severe penalties on those who flout the law.

It addresses the iniquities of the past, highlighting aspects such as the old "tot" or "dop" system where farm and other labourers were paid in kind with liquor, as well as the many illegal "shebeens" which flourish, particularly in traditional black townships.

According to the document 80% of retail liquor outlets in the province are unlicensed. The vast majority of these are "shebeens", which emanate from the apartheid era.

Strict measures are to be enacted allowing the police and local authorities to charge unlicensed offenders and to confiscate their liquor and vehicles.

Another issue that is evoking widespread reaction is a proposal to allow supermarkets to sell beer and spirits. For over a decade they have been allowed to sell wine and this new deviation, which is in line with international trends, has liquor store owners up in arms.

Helgard Wagener, Western Cape business regulation director in the economic affairs department said the legislators were aware that allowing supermarkets to sell beer and spirits could cause job losses and go against the government's policy of promoting small and medium businesses.

But by following international trends and allowing market forces to play themselves out it would give the consumer greater choice.