Taverners march against pending legislation

Liquor traders toyi-toyied in front of Parliament and handed over a list of demands to government.

Liquor traders under the banner of the Western Cape Liquor Traders are up in arms, and have vowed to fight the proposed Western Cape Alcohol-Related Harms Reduction Policy Green Paper.

On Thursday December 8, hundreds of shebeen and tavern owners, along with their supporters, marched to the National Assembly, in protest of the policy. The traders said they were opposed to any plan imposing stricter regulations on the sale of alcohol and their businesses.

The traders were calling for discussions with government over a draft bill with regulations that they said would severely affect their businesses.

They said the Green Paper had not been discussed with them – and gave government a month within which to meet with them.

There was also concern about the proposal to change the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 and restrictions on when alcohol could be sold in restaurants and pubs.

They also submitted a memorandum to Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, demanding a stop to searches by police, that the Green Paper be scrapped, that government consult with them first on any alcohol-related issues, and that government invest in them so to empower them to be able to create more jobs.

The traders have also asked to be treated with the same respect afforded to big businesses that sell liquor. They said they are responsible and would like to be treated that way too.

Vuma Liquor Traders’ chairperson Keith Ntoyi called on government to reconsider the Green Paper.

He said he was concerned about job losses.

Irate liquor trader Lefa Mapila from Gugulethu appealed to the government to give people trading licences.

“Treat us as reasonable people. We are reasoning people. We are not drug dealers. We demand to be treated with respect.

“The problem with the current regime is that it has brought back apartheid laws. There are laws for white people and laws for blacks and coloureds. We cannot accept that,” he said.

He added that rezoning would never work in the townships and that the shortage of land resulted in people can trading in the houses they were provide by the apartheid government.

Another angry trader, Uncle Sam-Sam said the proposed changes would further discriminate against those who had suffered racial and economic oppression under the apartheid regime.

“It allows big businesses like Shoprite and others to sell liquor in the townships simply because those businesses are run by white people. It also allows them to distribute liquor to the same areas where it says people are murdered because of liquor.

“But if we sell liquor, according to them, we are immoral. If white people sell liquor, they are moral. We refused to be classified as such,” he said.

Mr Plato, who accepted the memorandum of demands, denied that the government wanted to kill people’s businesses, emphasising that instead, it needed to be regulated and streamlined.

“We do not want to see them out of the business. We are not the enemy in the closet. We must stop shouting at each other and start working together. But I will take note of their issues,” he said.

He said his department was open to negotiate and promised to sit down with the traders if they allowed him that.