The Southernwood community is drowning under a huge number of liquor outlets, with 15 said to be operating in the small East London suburb.
Area councillor Phindile Miza said this easy access to alcohol had a negative impact on the well-being of the community, of which over 80% are students.
“The issue of alcohol access needs serious attention. One of my observations, confirmed by the liquor board, is that we have about 15 liquor outlets in the ward alone,” he said.
According to the manager for social accountability at the Eastern Cape Liquor Board (ECLB), Mgwebi Msiya, they had only 10 registered and legal liquor outlets on their records for the suburb.
Miza said there was chaos every weekend as people from all over the city descended on the suburb to party.
“We understand these are businesses and many are operating legally but we have many young people living here, and they are looking for opportunities [to propose]. We can’t have a normal community if there is going to be such massive alcohol consumption.”
Apart from the liquor outlets, which includes taverns and shebeens, student parties have become the norm.
Miza described Oxford Street as a deteriorating tourism attraction.
“This is the main street in our town along which visitors to the province drive when they are going to other areas. How come we have taverns in the main road of the city?”
“We understand that Southernwood attracts a number of people who come here during weekends but the noise that is made as a result of people who drink till the early hours of the morning affects all residents staying in the area.”
He accused some taverns of non-compliance with the municipal opening and closing by-laws, for instance, Ndosi’s Tavern in Nahoon View Road, which he said was always packed till the early hours of the morning.
“Ndosi opens till the morning. Residents in that area have been complaining since I arrived as a councillor that they cannot sleep at night because people buy alcohol and sit in their cars and make a noise. They urinate on the walls of the nearby houses and homeowners have to live with that smell.”
Questions sent to Buffalo City Metro to confirm tavern trading hours had not been answered by the time of going to print.
A landlord near one of the taverns recently had the wall of her house knocked down by a drunken motorist. However, she was fearful of speaking to the Dispatch, only saying: “Our wall was hit by a drunk driver in the morning at around 5am two weeks ago. I do not want to talk too much to the media about this because I fear the tavern owners around here.”
The Daily Dispatch visited Ndosi’s Tavern last week and an employee was reluctant to give the owner, Skhumbuzo Mhlanga’s, details to a reporter. The number she finally gave has been on voicemail for the last week. Meanwhile, there are two new tavern applications in the area.
“We have visited various tertiary institutions in the area and we have been together in fighting these last two alcohol applications. Their applications were presented to us in a public meeting and we rejected them,” Miza said.
“We received a letter that was sent to the liquor board by the municipality that they have inspected the properties and they agreed that applicants meet the requirements. Now that puts them in the position not to reject because the municipality has approved.”
Msiya said all 10 registered outlets in the suburb had gone through a rigorous process of application and the community had approved them. Residents had the right to object to the issuing of a licence.
“ECLB will make a determination based on the reasons given for the objection. Secondly, an applicant is issued with a form to submit to the ward councillor who should convene a community meeting to discuss the application if they agree with the issuing of the licence in their area,” he said.
“Our legislation does not prescribe to how many liquor outlets can be licensed within an area,” Msiya added.
Miza said they were meeting with various stakeholders to hold a public dialogue later this month.
To report illegal taverns call 0800000420, or What’sApp 076-403-6223. Or contact Ward 3 councillor Phindile Miza on 083-750-3249.