Liquor traders vow to fight against business clampdown

Liquor traders packed the Khayelitsha hall.

The Western Cape Liquor Traders Organisation (WCLTO) said it is ready and willing to confront the “war” released on the organisation allegedly by the Community Safety MEC Dan Plato and the Western Cape government.

This emerged at the failed Western Cape Liquor Authority (WCLA) Roadshow that was supposed to be held in Khayelitsha on Wednesday August 16.

Staggered by the news that Mr Plato would not attend the meeting, the traders asked the WCLA members to vacate the hall.

The visibly angry liquor traders and organisation vowed to fight to protect their businesses from what they call the “racist government of the Western Cape”.

Just after they chased away the WCLA, the organisation mapped their way going forward.

It was agreed that more demonstrations and protests were needed against the draft liquor policy. The WCLTO said the policy is nothing but a way to kill their businesses.

“We chased the liquor authority members away because we felt they are useless. There was nothing they were going to tell us. Dan Plato promised to be part of the gathering but didn’t pitch up. Last year in December we marched to Parliament and handed a memorandum to him. We gave him seven days to respond but he never did that. We are heading to another December now. But he has the audacity to send other people to us,” said the angry WCLTO organiser Xolani Jack.

Mr Jack said they have met as shebeen, pub and tavern owners from Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain, Overberg and Winelands to declare war on the government and the liquor authority.

He said all the black townships’ businesspeople require the same protection as that of liquor chainstores from the government.

“We all know that these so-called public participations are not real. The government is clever. They would come to us and make us sign a register which in the later stages would say they met with us. That is why when we chased the WCLA , we took the register with us. Dan (Plato) undermines us. We must make a statement,” he declared.

In order for them to win the battle with the government, the WCLTO secretary Lifa Mapila urged the traders and other liquor sellers to unite and to continue fighting the system.

He warned the traders not to rest on their laurels. “We need to form structures. It must be clear that we have an enemy on our doorstep. If we sit at home and come out only when we are bothered by police, we will not win the war. As traders we need to be united and fight back. We need to start with the councillors because those are some of our enemies,” he said.

Mr Mapila said liquor chainstores must be closed down in the townships. “We need to close down those stores in our areas. They cannot tell us this but continue feeding our people with liquor. We need to unite and have programmes of action, we will win the battle. This battle is economical and political. We also need to approach it that way,” he said.

Ewald Botha, spokesperson for Mr Plato, said the WCLA has been conducting an information and stakeholder engagement roadshow across the province to inform traders about the new regulations, as licence holders.

The sessions are also meant to provide licence holders with an opportunity to ask questions and to solve some of the problems pertaining to licence applications. He said, however, the group insisted that the meeting be closed. “Before they could start with presentations, a gentlemen got up and indicated that the people attending the meeting were members of the different fora which constitute the WCLTO and that they will not allow the meeting to continue,” he said.

“We regard the hostile reactions as a missed opportunity for the licence holders of Khayelitsha to engage with the liquor authority officials. The liquor authority has indicated that they will continue their planned roadshows and hope to be able to return to Khayelitsha in future. I have also been informed that the Western Cape Liquor Traders Association indicated that they will communicate their plans, in writing, to the liquor authority,” he said.

He said Mr Plato was unable to attend the roadshow in Khayelitsha but will be attending some of the other upcoming scheduled ones. He stressed that the province has a serious problem with alcohol. He said the abuse of substances in this province, and alcohol in particular, is considered to be one of the key causes of car crashes and interpersonal violence. He said the province is prioritising the reduction of alcohol harms.