South Africa, Cape Town – Long Street businesses are struggling to survive amid lockdown regulations that don’t allow them to operate as night clubs.
A business owner, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke out against police officials for “killing” businesses by constantly visiting their premises requesting liquor licences, and not protecting them from gangs who rule the street.
“At one point, I thought of just making a copy of my liquor licence and keeping it in my pocket because they come so often. Every time they pay you a visit they find a reason to close you down. The last time I was shut down, literally two people were dancing when the police walked in and took videos,” he said.
He said he’d been operating a bar and restaurant at 50% capacity but it’s hard to control even a small group when alcohol was involved.
“If someone dances, it doesn’t make the place a night club. The regulations don’t make sense to me. The police are making it hard for us. We aren’t making any money.”
He said he’d been paying gangsters protection money for years and not once had the police approached and spoken to him of how to lodge a complaint anonymously.
“They are a company. They come to you with an invoice. They have a tax number and registration number. They bring the invoice and I pay them.
“In lockdown, I told them I can’t give them money that I’m not making, so I’m paying less. And on top of that, we have to deal with the police killing our business,” he said.
The business owner said he was arrested twice and taken to court where he was charged with contravening regulations and trading as a night club for having people dancing at his venue.
Police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said Cape Town Central police station had been conducting compliance inspections in various clubs and some clubs were closed for Contravening Regulation.
“In terms of Regulation (72) read with Regulation 80(2) of the Disaster Management Act (DMA) Regulations applicable to Alert Level 1, no premises may operate as a night club and that any premises that are open as a night club commits an offence in terms the above-mentioned Regulations,” Rwexana said.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said there was a wealth of information on the extortion.
“There are CCTV footage, business accounts, applications for liquor licences as well as tip-offs. We have a database of information but there’s been no meaningful attempt to manage extortion from the national government. SAPS is doing it alone,” Smith said.
He added he had received complaints about the operations of night clubs.
“Clubs have numerous staff members who are dependent on that income. We want businesses to get back on their feet but we err on the side of legal compliance to prevent harsher lockdowns in the future,” Smith said.
A spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health Mark van der Heever said that similar to night clubs, bars also posed a risk of high infections and urged the public to make safer choices.
“As we move forward with our lives, we embark on activities which carry a possible risk of becoming infected. Gathering indoors in crowded places with poor ventilation where social distancing cannot be maintained can lead to rapid infection through super-spreader events. It is thus very important that we socialise safely,” Van der Heever said.
MEC for Community Safety Albert Fritz said SAPS was allowed to close a premise for a period not longer than the remainder of the trading hours for that day in accordance with section 70 of the Western Cape Liquor Act (WCLA) No. 4 of 2008. “Since the start of alert level 1, no liquor licences have been suspended or revoked by the Liquor Licensing Tribunal,” Fritz said.
Fritz also said anyone with information on extortion in the province, or who had been approached to pay protection fees, could anonymously report it to the police, on the SAPS extortion hotline number 021 466 0011.