Peter Luhanga and Sandiso Phaliso
Western Cape shebeen owners have demanded that the Western Cape Liquor Act be revised, with some threatening not to vote in this year’s elections if their concerns are not addressed. This emerged when about 2,000 people from 10 shebeen associations from across Cape Town flooded into the city centre this morning (subs:Tues), carrying placards saying “no shebeen, no vote” and “no shebeen, no world cup”.
They marched to the provincial legislature in Wale Street to protest against the Act, which was signed into law on November 25 by Premier Lynn Brown and which became effective from January 1.
The Act has sparked anger from illegal shebeen owners – of which there are estimated to be about 30,000 in the Western Cape – and liquor outlets who argue that it infringes their right to earn a living.
Under the act, shebeen owners who do not obtain a license face a fine of up to R500,000 or two-and-a-half years in prison.
Reading a memorandum to the crowd, Ntozonke Mgwebi, spokesperson for the Western Cape Liquor Association, demanded that the Act be revised and that police raids end.
He said if they were not taken seriously they would seek remedy in the courts.
“All shebeen owners and their families are affected by this Act and they have large numbers of people which they now can’t support.”
He appealed to the government not to force them to “go underground and become violent”.
In Du Noon township near Milnerton over 200 shebeen owners gathered from as early as 6am, braving early morning showers while they waited for transport to Cape Town.
Nophelo Nyanda, chairman of the Du Noon Shebeen Owners said shebeen owners were treated as if they did not have a right to be heard.
“If government does not respond to our grievances and continues robbing our only source of income we are not going to vote in the elections,” she said.
Masiphumelele and Fish Hoek Tavern Association representative Albert Bhulala said: “They can’t just close our shebeens without giving us an option.”
Garth Strachan, MEC for finance, economic development and tourism, said government was “sympathetic” to those who put food on the table through work in unlicensed shebeens.
“But given the undeniable relationship between alcohol abuse and violence – particularly against women and children, and on the roads – it would be extremely irresponsible to allow its continued unfettered distribution in our communities.”