Athlone shebeen owner Edward Van de Berg at his home/shebeen. Photo by: Michael Walker

For years the city couple ran an illegal shebeen from their home, and the police raided them 52 times.

Then the National Director of Public Prosecutions decided that the only solution to the illicit trade was to seize their home, and won the subsequent court case.

But now the couple, who have two school-going children who live with them, are appealing the judgment to a full Bench at the Western Cape High Court in a bid to save what they say is their family home, their children’s inheritance and their livelihood. The couple, Hilda and Edward van der Burg, from Athlone, have been selling liquor illegally since 2001 and despite repeated raids by police, have continued doing so.

The State has argued that having the couple forfeit the house, which is located next to a school and a church, is the only way to stop them from selling the liquor.

The Van der Burgs had apparently applied for a liquor licence previously but this was not approved.

In the Western Cape High Court on Friday, their attorney, Gregory Derris, argued that because the couple had never been imprisoned and were only ever issued with fines, it had not been a strong enough deterrent to keep them from selling the liquor.

But Judge Jeanette Traverso interjected, saying: “These are grown-up people we’re talking about. They had warnings, they were convicted and sentenced. They’re not puppies that run around.

“Police conducted 52 operations against them. I’ve been around for 65 years and the police haven’t had any operations against me.”

Judge Chantal Fortuin also questioned whether the couple deserved to keep the house at all after their blatant disregard for the law.

“But there is a family home that is being conducted here as well,” said Derris.

“If the property is taken, it will affect the living arrangement of the entire family. This is not just a shebeen. It’s a family home, and that is better than living on the street.

“They haven’t simply shown a blatant disregard for the law, they have a hand-to-mouth existence.”

Geoff Budlender, for the National Director of Public Prosecutions, however, told the court that while the children may lose out on their inheritance, there were no indications that they may be left homeless, as the couple claimed they earned R2 000 a week from their vegetable stall.

He said it was necessary for the court to send out the message that if you conduct illegal business from your home, your house could be seized.

“These are people who are living in a shebeen, not a shebeen being run from a home,” said Budlender, adding that the business was “popular”, “successful” and “substantial”. “Their attitude to crime has been: “I can continue carrying on with the crime as long as I pay a fine.”

“Forfeiture is the only means available to the law for ending this scenario.” - Cape Times

Judgment was reserved.

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