Durban’s “adult businesses” should be slapped with a 10-15 percent “sin tax” as they had become fronts for brothels, according to a DA councillor.
The proposal by Heinz de Boer came as the matter of tariffs on business licences was brought under the spotlight at the eThekwini council’s executive committee meeting on Tuesday.
But De Boer’s “sin tax” plan, although receiving support from eThekwini Speaker Logie Naidoo, was shot down by city bosses who felt affronted to learn that they were allowing brothels to operate under their noses.
The matter was discussed after city manager, S’bu Sithole, made a presentation on the business licence tariffs, which could be increased by 5 percent this year if approved by the full council.
Business licences for nightclubs, massage parlours, escort agencies and adult premises will increase from R2 241 to R2 353 (including VAT), if the plan goes ahead.
De Boer said the increase was “nothing” for the owners of such establishments, who should face heftier fees. “We all know what goes on at those adult premises.”
He said that many “adult businesses” were popping up in suburbs across Durban and were actually being operated as brothels.
He said police in Durban North were battling to shut down one such property as it had “brazenly” applied for a special consent licence from the city.
“That increase is nothing for them. A nightclub can make R2 300 in 20 minutes and that is two clients at a brothel,” he said.
Naidoo supported De Boer, agreeing that the massage parlours and adult premises were guises for brothels.
“We should consider some sort of punitive tariff,” he said.
Sithole said the increases were not based on specific businesses, but in keeping the increases aligned to inflation.
He said De Boer was “out of order” to claim that the city approved brothels and said that businesses run as adult premises and massage parlours would need to be looked at to ensure they were complying with bylaws and were operating in the correct zones.
He said this would have to be a separate process and not done with regard to business licences.
Deputy mayor, Nomvuzo Shabalala, slammed De Boer for his assertion, arguing that the city did not approve the running of brothels.
“We don’t know about this issue raised by Mr De Boer. Some of these businesses have been in the city for years. Maybe he is talking from experience,” she said.
De Boer objected and raised a point of order against Shabalala.
“The insinuation that I visit brothels is insulting. I work very closely with the police, that’s why I know about these issues,” he said.
According to the tariff plan, business licences for restaurants, takeaways, tuck-shops or any food outlet, as well as accommodation establishments such as bed-and-breakfasts, will increase from R416 to R474.
Licences for food vendors would increase from R167 to R190, and for hawkers from R92 to R105.