Traders protest over liquor laws

Irate liquor traders at the Philippi Magistrate’s Court.

A protest by the Western Cape Liquor Traders Organisation (WCLTO) delayed justice and led to numerous case postponements at the Philippi Magistrate’s Court last Wednesday.

The protesters arrived outside the court in song just before 8am to hand over a list of demands.

Security guards had to close off the court gates to prevent them from entering the building.

Those who came for their cases to be heard had to step aside and wait until further notice. After some time the leadership of the protesters and police were allowed inside the building for negotiations.

The organisation has accused the Philippi court and the government of excluding them from participating in the economy through what it calls unfair, racist and unjust laws.

In a march to the Provincial Legislature and Parliament in November last year, the traders demanded the scrapping of laws which they said were historically unfair to black traders. According to a report in the Cape Argus, the traders also demanded liquor traders who had their licence before April 2012 be granted a permanent departure as their licences were granted without zoning as the law did not require it. There was also an issue where licensed premises did not qualify for automatic renewal.

Last Wednesday, the traders said they have for a long time been watching and witnessing a miscarriage of justice by one magistrate whom they say is racist and a law unto herself. They claimed that black traders are demonised and are being criminalised for trying to put food on the table.

The group’s interim secretary Thulani Phike said. “The purpose of the march was to expose the racist and unlawful conduct of court Q magistrate. We are here to say enough is enough. We have been for too long witnessing this miscarriage of law by one arrogant and racist magistrate,” he said.

Phike warned that the march would not be the last to happen in the metro.

He criticised the government for allowing chain stores to operate in the township but refusing them to work.

“We have all the chain stores selling liquor in the townships but when there is criminal activity the blame is put on our shoulders. We are the scapegoat while the chain stores are free to do as they like. The so called zoning works against us, not the chain stores. They sell liquor even near the mosques. We are tired of being blamed for all that is not good,” he said.

Another trader Neo Mantsunyane said his concern was that police would take their liquor and money during a raid but when they go to the police station no one has any knowledge of it.

“We want to be clear when the police do raids, is it legal or just police in uniforms? They take our liquor for themselves. We have encountered a lot of these issues where when you go to the police station to find out about your money and liquor nobody knows. This is criminal,” he said.

Among the things they demanded in the list of demands is for a review of all liquor-related cases in the Philippi court, stopping of inhumane treatment of black traders, the repelling of the unlawful and unconstitutional instruction that says liquor traders appearing for the second time in court must be jailed in Pollsmoor and they demanded that black people be treated with respect and dignity they deserve that is enshrined in the constitution. Lastly they demanded a meeting with the affected department within 14 working days.

Vuyo Dyani, court manager, said cases on the roll for day day had to be postponed. He said the court will set a meeting with the leadership of the organisation. “I am still awaiting for the principal to give me the actual date for the meeting,” he said.

The traders dispersed peacefully after its leadership explained to them what would happen next. However, they said they were not fully happy with the decision to leave without a proper answer.

Police had their hands full to try to stop them from entering the court premises.
Some of the posters carried by protesters send a clear message to the authorities.