Liquor trade under spotlight in Langa

Community leaders in Langa are worried that more people, particularly youth, will continue to perish if the abuse of alcohol is allowed to continue.

The neighbourhood, which is the Cape’s oldest township, has experienced a surge in alcohol-related deaths, with the most recent being the gruesome killing of Unathi Madotyeni (“Gruesome murder rocks Langa”, Vukani, June 1).

The 33-year-old was allegedly last seen alive at the popular drinking spot Cool’s Place, close to the Langa taxi rank.

Her mutilated body was found with her eyes gouged out.

The killing caused panic in the community.

A man, who was arrested a few days later, appeared at the Bishop Lavis Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday June 13 and is due to appear again, for a bail application, on Monday July 3.

Despite the arrest, the community and the police are worried about the number of drinking spots and the freedom in which they are allowed to operate.

Nomalanga Ngwevela of the Langa Joint Committee, a structure that represents Langa’s different areas, said they were concerned about the lack of policing and law enforcement at liquor outlets.

She said Langa was experiencing a worrying spell of binge drinking, with young people drinking in the streets from late in the evening until the early hours of the next morning.

She said more than once, even before Ms Madotyeni’s murder, they had raised their concerns with police, especially about how young people behaved at Cool’s Place.

The place is apparently a hit with youth who allegedly drink in public and in their vehicles with no questions asked.

“Sometimes when you come to Langa around 3am you see them on the streets,” said Ms Ngwevela.

“When you walk home around that time you become a soft target,” she said.

Ms Ngwevela said they asked police to intervene, but were told police had too few resources.

She said the police station only had two vehicles patrolling the entire area at night and nine police officers on duty.

Ms Ngwevela said they then raised these concerns with Community Safety MEC Dan Plato but were still waiting for his intervention.

“It is not safe for our children,” she said. “People are not feeling safe (and) as a result they are reluctant to walk in the night.”

Community police forum chairperson Ayanda Mooi said both licensed and unlicensed drinking spots contributed to the problem.

He said the CPF was concerned about reports surrounding Cool’s Place.

He said the owner passed away about two years ago, but someone ran the facility in his name. “How is it possible that the licence can be active when the owner has died?” he asked.

Police spokesperson Captain Nondumiso Paul said the station had an officer who monitored liquor establishments to ensure they complied with the law.

She said they had raised numerous concerns with the Western Cape Liquor Board about Cool’s Place. “The liquor board is very slow in dealing with this matter,” she said.

Captain Paul confirmed that despite the owner having died, the licence had been renewed in December last year. She said police would also like to get answers about their concerns.

Deputy director for communication, education and stakeholder relations at the Western Cape Liquor Authority (WCLA), Philip Prinsloo, however, dismissed reports that there was no action from the liquor regulatory body.

He said legal processes were being followed.

“A notice was issued to the executor of the estate to appear for a hearing in terms of Section 20 of the Western Cape Liquor Act. This process is currently running and we need to comply with certain legal time lines.

“It is therefore not true that the WCLA is not doing anything about complaints that are registered with us,” he said.

In order to deal with the matter effectively, Mr Prinsloo said, enough evidence had to be compiled before taking the matter to the Liquor Lincensing Tribunal (LLT).

“Please note that is also important to understand that when bringing cases before the LLT in order to have a successful prosecution, we need to have enough evidence to successfully prosecute,” he said.

Ewald Botha, spokesperson for Mr Plato, said the MEC had visited Langa a number of times since April and was working with the community to find solutions to some of their challenges.

These include the launch of the Walking Bus Initiative, towards the end of last month.

“We all have to continuously see how better we can partner with one another to help address the safety problems our communities face.

“I look forward to engaging further with the Langa community,” he said.

“The policing shortages you mention are currently being championed by the provincial legislature standing committee on community safety and all of their findings on staffing shortages have been brought to the attention of the provincial police management already.”

Vukani tried to get comment from the management of Cool’s Place a number of times, but the Chinese people who now run the place were unable to understand us, or answer our questions.