War on shebs hots up

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

Western Cape MEC for finance and tourism Garth Strachan has vowed to step up the war against unlicensed shebeens and liquor retailers who supply them.

Strachan was responding to about 2000 shebeen owners who marched on the provincial government's offices yesterday.

The shebeen owners said they were totally against the new Western Cape Liquor Act, saying it would put them out of business.

Masiphumelele Shebeen Association chairman Khaya Ewayi said: "We are not challenging them for closing us down, but they treat us like dogs. They raid our places, throw beers on the floor and leave our places dirty."

But Strachan responded by saying: "We cannot perpetuate a society with different rules for different classes or skin colours."

People in Cape Town's townships were "as deserving of orderly lives" as the residents of opulent suburbs, Strachan said.

The Liquor Act stipulates that liquor retailers who sell to unlicensed shebeens will be fined between R50000 and R1million and could face jail terms of between six months and five years.

A senior government official who spoke to Sowetan on condition of anonymity said he did not understand the shebeen owners' opposition to the new law because it had always been illegal to sell liquor without a licence.

"There are bigger vested interests against the Liquor Act. Almost 70percent of all spirits are sold to shebeens. These marchers came here with an expensive white lawyer. I suspect the liquor industry is behind their march."

Strachan said the new law was supported by thousands of people who lived next door to unlicensed shebeens that were "associated with crime and gangsterism".