Two Athlone shebeens may soon face the same fate as Hilda's Place, a shebeen that will soon be forfeited to the State.
According to the Athlone police station's Captain Roland Gabriels, Hilda's Place received its final order last week. "This means that the house and its contents are reserved to the State," says Gabriels.
Within 90 days the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) plans to lodge an order with the High Court and, if successful, all the contents and the houses will be owned by the state, says Gabriels.
The aforementioned shebeen has been a headache for both police and the community, adds Gabriels. Situated in Birdwood Street near a church, school and the railway line, it has fuelled crime.
"We have received many complaints from residents that the children are not safe walking home from school because they are mugged," says Gabriels.
According to media reports, the couple who own the shebeen, Hilda and Edward van der Berg, also face charges of murdering their domestic worker, Anne Bee, known as Pandjies.
The couple allegedly accused Bee of stealing R3 000 from them and forced Bee and a friend to unclothe themselves to prove their innocence.
When no money was found on them, the friend was allowed to leave but after she told her boyfriend what had happened, she and her boyfriend returned to the house where they saw Bee bleeding and injured on the floor, a local newspaper reported. Bee later died.
"These incidents prove how problematic this shebeen has been for us and after working on this case for five years, I am happy that the law is taking its course. The community will also be relieved that no more incidents like these will take place once the State has seized the house."
After its seizure, the AFU will decide what to do with the house. Depending on requests made by the public, it could either be sold or given back to the community who could use it for a community structure such as a house for homeless people, says Gabriels.
Although he has finally won his fight against Hilda's Place, Gabriels is not resting on his laurels. He, along with advocate Rusjree Brijmohanlall from the National Prosecuting Authority, plan to crack down on all shebeens in the area.
"We have already taken steps to serve documents on two different shebeens. They have been notified to stop their business but have failed to do so. We will be serving them with final orders after which the AFU will also seize their assets."
The two identified shebeens are 5 Rose Street in Kewtown, known as Anton's Place and a house situated at 18 Status Square, Kewtown.
"People need to be aware that we are not taking these matters lightly. We will enforce the law when it comes to selling liquor illegally," concludes Gabriels.