Last round at boozers near schools and churches

03 March 2015 - 02:00 By Penwell Dlamini and Shenaaz Jamal
Lebogang Maile. File photo
Lebogang Maile. File photo

The Gauteng provincial government is to close down liquor outlets near schools, a move opposed by the liquor industry.

Gauteng MEC for economic development Lebogang Maile yesterday said this would be done in conjunction with the provincial department of education.

He said legislation clearly stated that liquor traders could not operate near churches and schools .

The liquor trade has been a thorny issue for the Gauteng government. Last year, liquor traders were relieved when the government announced that the new Gauteng Liquor Act would allow trading on Sundays. But the new act tightens requirements for the granting of licences and compels traders to sell food if their patrons drink on the premises.

But the promulgation of the act was delayed because regulations had to be first approved. The regulations were drafted by the Department of Economic Development, under which the Gauteng Liquor Board falls, setting trading hours, application fees and fines.

The act also states that facilities at which liquor is consumed must serve meals and include menus with their applications.

When the act was introduced, the department warned that premises within 500m of a church or educational institution would receive "special attention".

The board is to investigate if the presence of liquor trading will have a negative impact on the churches and schools. If there are objections to the granting of a licence, hearings must be held before disputes can be referred to the appeals board. A court review is a liquor trader's last resort.

"Liquor licences are currently being issued as per the normal process," said Phindile Kunene, spokesman for the department of economic development.

At present there are 12000 tavern and 15000 shebeen permit holders. About 2000 illegal liquor outlets are operating in the province.

Churchill Mrasi, president of the SA Leisure Tourism and Hospitality Association, said the government was supposed to consult the industry before embarking on such a campaign.

"There should be specific operating hours for those outlets. They should not operate during school hours," Mrasi said.