Shebeen operators set to protest over licences

THE Western Cape Shebeen Association says its 40000 members are preparing for "mass protests" during the World Cup if the provincial government fails to grant them liquor licences.

The association's president, Mauritz Rossouw, told Sowetan that 80percent of the liquor licences in Cape Town remained in the hands of white traders, while blacks owned only 20percent.

Western Cape economic development and tourism MEC Alan Winde met the organisation last week and reportedly gave it two weeks to come up with a proposal to regulate all shebeens in the province.

Under the new provincial Liquor Act shebeens will no longer be allowed to operate without licences. But the association is fighting the 2009 law that says all shebeens must apply for licences from the Western Cape Liquor Board.

Yesterday Rossouw complained to Sowetan that the authorities believed that black people could not control social amenities such as shebeens.

Roussouw said his members were worried because licences would only be granted to residents who apply to have their properties rezoned from residential areas to commercial zones.

"The act will shut us down permanently. No one is going to get a licence ... family lives will be destroyed. We won't allow that to happen ... some of the mamas have been in business for 20 years, Roussouw said.

"The bar has been set too high, it should be brought down. We are serious. We are willing to take the matter to the highest court."

He said there was no land for commercial zoning in the townships and it would take about 10 years for some of his members to be licenced.

He said that most of his members wanted to be regulated but the "law was making it impossible".

An illegal shebeen operator in Du Noon, who declined to be named, said she had been in business for 15 years.

"This is the only way for me to put food on the table. I have applied for a licence in the past, but I did not get it," she said.

The new law also says 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.

Former economic development MEC Garth Strachan brought in the new law last year, saying people in Cape Town's townships, suffering from the effects of living surrounded by shebeens, were "as deserving of orderly lives as the residents of opulent suburbs".