Booze battle over at last
Police acted against two shebeen owners so many times that they eventually threw in the towel - citing a lack of resources.
Shenanigans at the shebeen in Athlone, Cape Town, frustrated one neighbour so much that she complained to government departments 50 times.
After more than a decade of fighting to shut down the shebeen, the Constitutional Court finally closed the doors of the watering hole on Tuesday.
The shebeen ownersended up in the Constitutional Court to appeal against a 2008 Cape High Court decision that their property be forfeited to the state. They had tried to launch an appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal but failed.
One of their biggest complaints was that their minor children would be left homeless if the business were closed.
Their legal journey started when the national director of public prosecutions successfully applied to the high court to have their property forfeited in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
"The property is situated in a dense residential area. A primary school, St Raphael's, is about 30m from the property. The St Mary's Roman Catholic Church is about 100m from the property. There are other educational institutions and places of worship within a 500m radius," said deputy director of public prosecutions Nicolaas Johannes van Zyl in his affidavit.
"The people living in the area have repeatedly complained about the fact that the property is being used as a shebeen. The complaints have been led by Mrs K Essa, an immediate neighbour, who has written over 50 letters to various government departments in an attempt to bring an end to this unlawful use of the property."
Essa complained about the numerous fights at the shebeen, that alcohol was sold to minors, and patrons urinated in full view of the public and often became so drunk that they collapsed in the road.
Van Zyl said the police had tried more than 50 times to close the business through arrests, search-and-seizure raids and 17 verbal warnings. His office said the owners merely paid a fine and continued with their illegal activities.
"The reason the SAPS in Athlone have not conducted further search-and-seizure operations at the premises is a lack of resources," said Van Zyl.
As for the argument that forfeiting their home to the state would violate their children's constitutional right to protection, the state claimed: "We submit that it is entirely opportunistic. It is particularly opportunistic in relation to the children, whom the [couple] attempt to use to protect their property and carry on their unlawful activity."
The shebeen owner's wife said they applied for a licenc e in 2002 but it was not approved.
In addition to running the shebeen they sold fruit and vegetables in Athlone but this business had taken a "huge financial dip".
"So much so that [we] had difficulty in servicing [the] mortgage bond," she said.
She said they have a "hand to mouth" existence and whatever income was derived from the shebeen was used for the family.
She denied that the money made by the shebeen benefited an organisation or gang, as envisaged by the Prevention of Organised Crime Act , in terms of which she and her husband were being prosecuted.
In a unanimous judgment, the Constitutional Court dismissed the appeal yesterday.
It ordered the national director of public prosecutions to appoint a social worker to investigate the children's living conditions.
The family's attorney, Gregory Derris said: "As far as the forfeiture of the property is concerned, my view is that it was a fair order."
The state is likely to institute eviction proceedings soon.