Alcohol trade in spotlight

Bazukise Marasha, facilitator at the Responsible Trade Facilitation organisation, interacting with Harry Gwala High School pupils during one of the organisation's outreach programmes.

Taverns and shebeens can play a positive role in communities in the long-term, believes the Responsible Trade Facilitation Organisation.

The organisation says the local liquor industry has not been active in promoting safety and is adamant that the taverns can do more in the fight against the spread of diseases, murders and alcohol abuse in their respective communities.

The newly-formed organisation plans to assist taverns in becoming responsible traders and encouraging them to play a positive role in the community.

Facilitator Bazukise Marasha said the project started in October last year.

“We assist taverns in becoming responsible traders. We teach them about the liquor laws and train them on issues like foetal alcohol syndrome and crime. Our facilitators visit the taverns bi-weekly. We are of the view that the businesses can do better to uplift communities. They can sponsor local sport teams, open soup kitchens and many other things,” said Mr Marasha.

However, he said there are businesses doing good work in their communities.

“For instance, we recently went to one school in Khayelitsha, the prizes were from the taverns. This is what we want to see happening. We want a society of responsible citizens,” he said. The organisation has also begun to actively encourage pupils to live positively by staying away from drugs and alcohol.

As part of their mentoring programme, Mr Marasha said team members took a day off, on Tuesday May 24, to tell Grade 12 pupils at Harry Gwala High School about the dangers of under-age drinking, teenage pregnancy, peer pressure and other issues.

“This is where we are going, to encourage everyone to live positively. Schools are where our future leaders are. This institution needs to get help from us all,” he said.

He added that he backed efforts to tighten liquor laws. He said alcohol was directly linked to most violent crimes.

“Taverns are big businesses on their own and they need to act responsibly. But we need to work with them and we also need to allow them to take responsibility for their own growth. In the meantime we have to assist them to tell their stories,” he said.

Tavern owner Zola Thinzi said he was happy to have met the organisation. He said he learnt a lot from it.

“I never kept files and records, but now I am doing that with the help of the project. They even advised us to put surveillance cameras at our businesses – something that never crossed my mind. Customer care is also a vital part of their advice. We are blessed to have such an organisation,” he said.

He added that they wanted to form a forum that would represent them.

Themba Sobantu, a shebeen owner from Green Point, in Khayelitsha, said it would be great to have people to assist the shebeens and taverns in the area.

“There are challenges that we would like somebody else to solve for us. We have a problem with late night police raids and getting licences. Maybe the organisation might be of help to us,” he said.