Liquor traders voice their concerns

Members of the Western Cape Liquor Traders Organisation show unity.

Shebeen and tavern owners have accused the government of making it difficult for their business to operate.

This comes after the Western Cape Liquor Traders’ Association held an imbizo at Gugulethu sports field last Friday.

Shebeen and tavern owners from all walks of life from the province gathered at the sports field to attend the imbizo and draft a way forward.

They claimed that the government imposes unfair laws which make it difficult for their businesses to survive. They charge that government refuses to allocate permits to some of their members while others have had their operating licences suspended.

The organisation’s president, Allan Samuels, said it was clear that government was targeting coloured and black businesses while allowing white people to do business in the township.

He said government firmly refuses to allow unlicensed shebeen owners to enter into the industry by making it harder for them to acquire permits.

He said as tavern and shebeen owners they have taken a firm stand that they won’t support any white-owned businesses that sell alcohol in their communities. But he said they would buy from black and coloured businesses.

Mr Samuels said they would intensify their efforts by urging residents to do the same as well. He said government says they are running their businesses in residential areas not zoned for business purposes but he said it was not their choice to live in these areas as people were forced to do so by the apartheid government.

He said they were honest business people who were trying to make a living and support their families.

He said as traders they have always ensured they respect the operating hours and do adhere to the law and don’t understand why the government was after them.

“We have already said we can regulate ourselves – we do that. More and more big business are opening their stores in our community, benefiting from our communities and yet we, who are from the very same community, are not allowed to do businesses. Our working hours have also been cut. We have been trying for years to negotiate with our government but yet it seems that our efforts are fruitless,” he said.

The organisation’s secretary, Lefa Mapilo, said when police officers raid their houses they take their alcohol and they get fined for not adhering to the liquor laws. He said the fines they have to pay coupled with the threat of imprisonment had caused distress to taverns owners.

He said they are concerned about how they will support their families when government forces them to close their businesses.

Mr Mapilo said there were incidents where some shebeen owners were arrested even though they had only six beers in their houses in some cases.

He said government talks about responsible drinking and trading and it is exactly what their organisation was advocating and championing.