Where to now for shebeens?

Fanny Mokoena from Meadowlands Soweto established Liquor Traders Against Crime (LTAC) in 2000 to tackle alcohol-related crimes such as domestic violence, rape and assault in her community.

The LTAC is made up of people trading liquor within communities, such as owners of taverns, shebeens, tour operators, local restaurants and bed and breakfasts. All the branches of the LTAC form the National Tourism and Hospitality Association (NTHA), which coordinates activities among different branches and is affiliated to the Gauteng Liquor Traders Association, says Mokoena.

The LTAC works closely with the police and the community police forum (CPF), and meets fortnightly to discuss the levels of crime, new crime hot spots and new criminal activities. This has played a key role in reducing crime as most crime that is alcohol-related occurs when people have finished drinking, says Mokoena.

“Crime has decreased, we have good results and we have an ongoing relationship with police and the CPF,” says Mokoena, who adds that it was not difficult to get shebeen owners to join the LTAC. Teddy Makgale, the secretary of the CPF at the police station of Greater Meadowlands, agrees that crime has gone down significantly.

Elisa Motsamai in Meadowlands, a shebeen owner and treasurer for LTAC Meadowlands, says she is happy to work hand-in-hand with the police. Their code of conduct includes not selling liquor to children or persons under 18, intoxicated persons as well as traffic department officers, SAPS officers, nurses or school teachers during working hours.

The LTAC has multiplied its branches from Soweto to Mamelodi in Pretoria and Mogale City in the West Rand. “Since the LTAC started, we have launched at least 25 branches in and around Gauteng,” says Mokoena. Meadowlands and Diepkloof have the largest membership.

The NTHA submitted requests to the Gauteng Liquor Board to regulate shebeens as shebeens were unregulated before 2003. “We used the NTHA as a vehicle of negotiating so liquor traders are formalised,” says Mokoena.

“The success is that we formalised a big number of shebeens that were selling illegally and we managed to get them shebeen permits,” she says proudly. The problem they are currently sitting with is that most shebeen permits, which last 18 months and are not renewable, will expire on May 1. “We don’t know what is going to happen from May 1; shebeens will be operating informally; we have requested a shebeen licence,” says Mokoena. Taverns have licences to operate.

Chief director Kenneth Mapengo of the Gauteng Liquor Board was not available for comment.

Violence and alcohol

According to Soul City, “the largest number of non-natural deaths in South Africa is due to violence (48%) followed by transport fatalities (30%). Both violence and transport deaths are closely linked with alcohol.”

Nearly half—49%—of non-natural deaths in South Africa involved persons with a blood/alcohol level of more than 0,05g/100ml, according to the Non-Natural Mortality Surveillance System in 2003. For homicides, 51% of victims had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) higher than 0,05g/100ml, as well as 35% of suicides. In 2001, 39% of trauma patients in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth had BACs higher than this. BAC levels were also linked to violent injuries, with 73% of patients in Port Elizabeth having this level or higher, 61% in Cape Town and 43% in Durban.

In addition, 70% of domestic violence cases are related to alcohol, according to Medical Research Council data. In 64% of murder cases in which the motive was known, and in 24% of cases in which the circumstances surrounding the murder were known, the crime had been committed after an argument and/or during a fight in which alcohol was involved, according to 1997 police data. Just under half of prisoners and parolees in South Africa had taken alcohol or other drugs just before committing the crime they were sent to prison for, according to a 1996 Human Sciences Research Council study.

These figures were all quoted by Charles Parry and Sarah Dewing in A Public Health Approach to Addressing Alcohol-Related Crime in South Africa. This article was published in the African Journal of Drug & Alcohol Studies last year.—Jocelyn Newmarch

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