Cape Town - People are ignoring the call to quarantine and continue to party and gamble despite the rapid spread of Covid-19.
Pay day is coming and police are expecting to have their hands full trying to prevent jovial party-goers congregating following the declaration of a state of disaster in the country.
The declaration has put restrictions on the number of people who can gather and on the time-frames for the sale of alcohol.
Sun International and Tsogo Sun also took the decision this week to no longer sell alcohol at the bars on the casino floors and the restaurants that they own and operate.
There are five licensed casinos in the Western Cape: GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World in Cape Town and the Golden Valley Casino in Worcester, both owned by Sun International; and Garden Route Casino in Mossel Bay, The Caledon Casino in Caledon and Mykonos Casino in Langebaan, operated by Tsogo Sun.
Police Minister Bheki Cele, in several meetings on Friday and on Saturday, highlighted the fact that even if people buy alcohol within the prescribed time-frames, drinking it outside the set
time was still prohibited. And drinking outside the place where you bought it or in any public space is also not allowed.
Spokesperson for Cele, Brigadier Mathapelo Peters, cautioned that public drinking is a criminal offence.
“Police have been instructed to take decisive action against this practice, including activities such as street bashes,” she added.
Despite these stern warnings, a popular spot, known as ePakini, along Spine Road in Khayelitsha, carried on as usual and hundreds of people gathered along the road, brought their own alcohol and partied. The spot is opposite the Lingelethu West police station.
“Every weekend that place is packed, it’s an outdoor bring-your-own-booze tavern, if I were to describe it, and the people there (on Friday) did not seem to care about the warnings,” said a resident who did not wish to be named.
“Come next weekend at month-end, I’m sure the numbers will have even doubled if the police don’t do anything now that the other popular clubs are closed.”
Mayoral committee member for safety JP Smith said the area was on the city’s radar and law enforcement agencies had already began operations targeting the gatherings.
“We had a joint operation in the CBD, along Long Street (on Friday night) where we were issuing warnings before we proceeded to issuing fines,” he said.
“Spine Road is a big problem. We had one of our neighbourhood watch people call us about that and the issue there is there are people who are simply not getting the message.”
Smith said while they were policing those contravening these regulations, they did not expect to record higher than normal incidents or crime.
MEC for Community Safety Albert Fritz said, together with the Western Cape Liquor Authority (WCLA), they were working on ensuring that holders of liquor licences adhered to regulations.
This includes closure of establishments at stipulated times, that no alcohol whether opened, unopened or finished, is off the tables at the times stipulated and that no applications for temporary licences would be issued or considered during the state of disaster.
“The authority has stated that enforcement actions will be taken against licence-holders who contravene relevant legislation. The regulations do not criminalise the contravention of the operating hours,” he said.
“However, those who are found by the authority to be trading beyond the prescribed hours will be issued with a formal warning at first.”
Thereafter, a process will follow which includes an application submitted to the Liquor Licensing Tribunal for the temporary suspension of the licence due to an imminent threat to the health of the public.
“This procedure will be enforced by both SAPS and law enforcement who have been made aware,” he added.
Casino management at GrandWest would not be drawn on whether they had seen a drop in visitor numbers and foot traffic this week, but on Friday night, the casino floor wasn’t overcrowded with gamblers.
Social distancing is definitely a key concern in the complex and, in response to this, Sun International said: “We will be removing seats from every second slot machine at our casinos to better ensure social distancing.
“Our tables games will be limited to a maximum of four players per table with extra seats being removed, while all of our upcoming casino draws, promotions and tournaments have been cancelled until further notice.”