Irate traders storm council offices.

Members of the Vuma Liquor Traders' Association stormed the municipal offices in Khayelitsha.

Hordes of people invaded the Stocks and Stocks municipal offices in Khayelitsha to protest by-laws they felt were harsh on liquor outlets.

Livid Vuma Liquor Traders’ Association members said they occupied the offices because the municipality is not taking them seriously. They are demanding the scrapping of the zoning system and demanding to be given more time to trade.

They also claimed that police are harassing their businesses and stealing their monies when they did not find booze. Traders said they are not happy with police closing their businesses early while big stores stay open for long hours.

Vuma Liquor Traders’ chairperson, Keith Ntoyi, said the municipality is not doing good for them. Mr Ntoyi said it was about time that traders put more pressure on the City of Cape Town.

He said liquor traders are paying huge sums of money for licences to trade but the City is now coming up with new times of trading. “The times on the licences and the new zoning system is not the same. We used to stay open until four in the morning and now the times have changed from 11am to 11pm and yet big shops like the Shoprites and Spars open as early as nine.”

Asked about the possible contribution liquor outlets make to road deaths and other fatalities, Mr Ntoyi rubbished that as a way to taint the image of their businesses. “Have they done any studies on that? What about those who drink in the comfort of their homes and later decided to go somewhere and die? The problem with the City is that they are looking for any piece of dirt to make us look bad. If they believe we contribute in deaths on the roads, then the Shoprites also do,” he said.

Vuma Liquor Traders’ vice chairman, Xolani, Jack said he was not apologetic for invading the offices in that manner. He said the City needed to review its decision on zoning and stop poking its nose in their businesses. “This City has come up with by-laws that limit us from trading. That is not on. We are paying for these licences. What they do not know is that we have children and families to feed just like them. There are old people who have been trading for years and there is nothing else they can do now. We are saying they must scrap the zoning system. Our mandate is clear, we do not want the zoning,”

He called on the City to mind those who have worked hard to have their businesses. “They must review their decision. People have worked hard to apply and get the licences. The liquor board has no problem to issue licences to unlicensed traders but the stumbling block is the City with its by-laws. The City’s aim is stop us from maintaining economic freedom. We are not going to allow that,” he said.

He said they have agreed to meet the City officials on a date to be announced soon to discuss the issue. He, however, said they are not backing down on the scrapping of the zoning by-laws.

Nokuzola Mdazu, an unlicensed trader from Site C, said life has been difficult because police are always harassing them. “I am tired of harassment by police on a daily basis. They do not only take booze but money as well. I am here to put my signature on this cruelty by-laws,” she said.

Another trader, Buyiswa Gabela, said she would be happy to trade freely, without harassment. She said she was happy to be part of the protest.

Priya Reddy, spokesperson for the City of Cape Town, said it is important to understand that all municipalities across the country are required by the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA) to develop a single zoning scheme applicable to every municipality.

Ms Reddy said the City of Cape Town has complied with this national requirement and has adopted a single zoning scheme, called the Development Management Scheme. “The general purpose of a zoning scheme is to regulate the land use rights, such as the sale of liquor, and to control the use of land, namely where a building can be constructed on land falling within the boundaries of the municipality. The City cannot, therefore, ‘scrap’ its zoning scheme as this would mean we would be in contravention of the SPLUMA, which would be illegal. Also, in terms of the SPLUMA, the City is obligated to enforce the provisions of its zoning scheme,” she said.

She said if a community or industry is of the view that certain provisions in the zoning scheme should be reviewed then submissions to that effect can be submitted to the City for consideration. She added that the sale of liquor within residential areas is a highly contentious issue within communities with very strong differences of opinion among residents about the impact and effect thereof. “It is the City’s duty and responsibility to consider the impact of land use types, such as the sale of liquor, on and within residential communities. Liquor traders are encouraged to set up businesses within the dedicated business areas and in accordance with the City’s Development Management Scheme,” she said.