A provincial move to legalise more than 2 000 shebeens in the Western Cape will place local police officers under intense pressure, the Lansdowne Police say.
Last year, Tasneem Essop, Environment, Planning and Economic Development MEC, proposed that the Land Use Planning Ordinance (LUPO) Act be amended. According to media reports, the amendment aims to widen the definition of liquor outlets.
If accepted, the amendment will mean that shebeens will be legalised and that patrons may consume alcohol on the premises. The amendment also allows for shebeen owners to manufacture alcoholic beverages in small amounts.
"The consumption of liquor is responsible for a high percentage of crime. In areas where there are many shebeens, cases of assault and domestic violence are normally much higher. The presence of shebeens also links to driving under the influence and, in extreme cases, murder," says police spokesperson Captain Allan Manuel.
Amending the law will not only place pressure on the law enforcement sector but will also counteract the hard work the police have already invested in eradicating illegal shebeens, says Manuel.
"If more shebeens are legalised, crime will probably escalate. More people will be allowed to sell alcohol and the effects of inebriated people are endless."
"We won't be able to control the sale of liquor nor will we be able to control its consumption. This means that we will probably have to deploy more officers into the sectors and it will place pressure on us," says Manuel.
JP Smith, the City of Cape Town's Mayoral Committee member for Safety and Security, strongly echoes Manuel's views.
"Agreeing to this amendment will fly in the face of everything the police have been doing. Late last year the mayor and Safety and Security MEC Leonard Ramatlakane and I were hosting meetings on how to curb shebeens, and in comes our colleague hatching plans to legalise shebeens. I don't see the logic behind the move because alcohol and its impacts are disastrous," he told People's Post.
Smith adds that there is also a land use aspect, as many of the homes would have to be rezoned from residential to business use.
The Western Cape has an estimated 30 000 shebeens, says Smith.
"We have lodged our vociferous comment on the matter because we believe it will make the current situation uncontrollable. People need to realise what impact this will have on the communities at stake."
Commenting on the issue, Hanover Park ward councillor Kenneth Lategan says he is opposed to the idea.
"We cannot support the legalisation of more shebeens. One can just drive through Hanover Park to see the effects that alcohol and drugs have had on people and I can't agree to a move that will see council houses used as liquor outlets because shebeens are the breeding place of addiction," says Lategan.
According to Raybin Windvogel, the acting director of the Liquor Board, the application by provincial government was made last year and the closing date for public comment was 22 December 2006.
The MEC will now consider the comments before making a decision to pass it into law.
Smith says he will motivate the city council to take legal action, if need be, to have the application for the amendment rejected.
"If the liquor-related crime and foetal alcohol syndrome rates were not so alarmingly high, perhaps we could be less rigid with this, but as it stands, it cannot be allowed to happen."