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Pretoria - State departments, especially the Gauteng Liquor Board, habitually ignore court orders, leading to taxpayers having to pay for their arrogance.

This is according to city lawyer Marius Blom, who says he has about 10 to 20 different cases where contempt applications can be brought against the liquor board if his clients instruct him to do so.

Blom has been dealing with liquor boards for more than 37 years, and has over this period struggled to obtain liquor licences on behalf of his clients.

It is no victory for him if a court orders the board to issue an outstanding licence, as the liquor board often simply ignores these rulings.

Every time there is an order against the board, the taxpayer has to fork out for the legal bill, said Blom.

In the latest application before the High Court in Pretoria, a judge gave the board a tongue lashing, questioning how difficult it can be to issue a liquor licence after the court specifically ordered it to do so.

Liquor board officials claim it is a lengthy process which takes months, but Judge Johan Louw said it was simply a case of the chairman of the board signing the licence.

“If the court instructed me to issue a liquor licence I could do it within half an hour. It is simply a case of typing out the form and signing it,” Blom told the Pretoria News.

In the latest liquor licence saga before court this week, Blom represented a Johannesburg-based company Pasito Trading Enterprises, which had been waiting for more than three years to obtain a liquor licence. The company had to pay rent each month for a business which did not generate any income.

The legal battle concerning this entity alone will cost the board - ultimately the taxpayer - between R60 000 and R100 000 in wasted costs, said Blom.

The company had to turn to court numerous times before the court this week ordered that the company may proceed to trade in liquor until such time as the board issued it with the physical licence.

The board at first turned down the company’s application.

The court reviewed and set this aside and referred the matter back to the board. It again refused the application on the same grounds and the court again referred the matter back.

In January a judge ordered that the licence be issued, but nothing happened.

This week Blom turned to court to hold the board in contempt of court and to obtain an urgent order enforcing the order.

The board denied any wrongdoing and stated that these things took time, especially as one was dealing with a government department.

It disputed that the matter was urgent.

Advocate Linda Pretorius, an expert on liquor board matters, argued that her client was in the dark as to when - if ever - the licence would be issued, in spite of the order being in place.

Judge Louw ordered that the matter was indeed urgent but before Pretorius could argue the merits of the case, counsel for the board suddenly agreed to an order that the company may trade pending the issuing of the physical licence.

Blom said if the board had shown respect for the court order in the first place, the taxpayer would have been spared a lot of unnecessary expense.

According to him, this case is just a drop in the ocean, as there are many more similar applications pending.

He said while the liquor boards in all the provinces, with the exception of Mpumalanga, were slack in adhering to orders and applying their minds to applications, the Gauteng board was the worst.

 

Various judges have slammed the board for not speedily acting on licence applications.

Judge Piet Ebersohn, in a similar matter last year, called on the public protector’s office to probe the board “for failing the public”.

Pretoria News