A row erupted over liquor licences at Sub-council 2’s meeting on Wednesday February 15.
At the heart of the squabble were seven licensed liquor outlets wanting extensions to their trading hours and, in some cases, days. They are Jubra Liquors, Seuns Liquor Shop, Linge Liquors, Aroma, Prima, Picardi Rebel and Avenue.
Councillors only approved three of the applications – Prima, Jubra and Picardi – declining the others for various reasons, including: their location in residential areas, proximity to schools or creches, objections from community groups and previous transgressions. Councillors then argued about curbing drunkenness and the economic impact the rejection of a liquor licence had on a community.
Ward 101 councillor Luyanda Mbele accused his fellow councillors of inconsistency in rejecting some of the applications. He then abstained from voting on all the other applications.
“These are previously oppressed people,” he said. “This is making the rich more richer and the poor are getting more poorer (sic).”
Proportional councillor Cosmos Mabona said the decisions were reminiscent of apartheid because only liquor outlets “oor die spoor” were being granted extensions.
“We are forcing people to move out of their areas and if I had to go there, I’d be arrested,” he said.
He too abstained from voting on five of the applications after he, Mr Mbele and Ward 6 councillor Simpiwe Nonkiyezana had initially voted in favour of the first two.
His comments outraged his fellow councillors, and Ward 8 councillor Marian Nieuwoudt criticised his “dwaasheid” saying he needed to educate himself about the nuances of his job.
Councillor Grant Twigg broke the tension by appealing to the councillors to be “sober” in their conduct.
“Let’s do this soberly,” he said, to laughter. “It’s not in the interest of any of us to start getting emotional.”
Seun’s Liquor Shop in Scottsdene was one of the shops whose applications had been declined. Johan Barends, the owner, said he applied for the extra hours because there was an increase in demand after hours – when the liquor shop’s licence is no longer valid.
Mr Barends wants to continue trading until 8pm on weekdays and Saturdays.
“That’s when people are coming out of work and are looking for places to buy liquor,” Mr Barends said.
Currently his permission to trade cuts off at 6pm and his clients have complained that they were robbed when they ventured into other areas to buy liquor after hours, he said.
“People are moving far out of the area to buy booze,” he said.
He added: “I don’t also always want to talk about money but this is also about money. Before 6pm it is quiet but after 6pm there is a demand.”
One of the reasons why councillors could not agree the extension of the licensing hours was a report by police saying that they did not support the extended hours because the shop was in a residential area.
But Mr Barends said that the shop had been there long before the area became residential.
He said Seun’s Liquor Shop has been in Scottsdene for more than a dozen years.
“I was here before there were any houses around me,” he said. “Now more and more houses are going up.”
According to the sub-council notes, notice of the application was sent to all the shop’s immediate residential neighbours and well beyond. Notices were also sent to several community organisations in the area. No objections were received.
The prospect of losing his licence is real fear for Mr Barends because of his age.
“I’m 63,” he said. “There is no other work for me at my age. This is my only income. If someone takes my licence away, it’s as good as taking my whole life away. This is my living.”
Linge Liquors’ application for extension was also tabled at the meeting.
The manager at the shop in Wallacedene, Simphiwe Poto, said the owner had applied for the extended trading hours because the “customers want it”.
The owner, Nkosiphendule Mbona, could not be reached for comment but according to the sub-council notes his reason for requesting the extension was the same as Mr Barends.
Nomhle Mcunukelwa, Linge Liquors’ next door neighbour said she had not heard about the application to extend the shop’s hours but she was not opposed to it because “they’re very quiet”.
Ms Mcunukelwa spoke to the Northern News in the shadow of the three-metre-high beer crate wall that surrounded the house from which Linge Liquors operates. She said that she had always lived next door to the shop and she had no problems with it because customers bought their liquor and left.
“People don’t drink here,” she said. “People just buy and take away.”
Opposite neighbour Nolundi Falasi was of the same opinion. “We don’t get fights here,” she said. “Everything is going well, really.”