CityPress - - Business - LESETJA MALOPE lesetja.malope@city­

The newly formed liquor traders’ or­gan­i­sa­tion, the Na­tional Liquor Fo­rum, has vowed to fight for trans­for­ma­tion and bat­tle dis­crim­i­na­tion in the al­co­hol sec­tor.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Gaut­eng head, Linda Ma­dida, in an in­ter­view with City Press, said the liquor traders, es­pe­cially ones based in town­ships, were un­happy with be­ing side­lined by both gov­ern­ment and ma­jor liquor re­tail­ers.

The fo­rum, which is just over a month old and only set to go to its in­au­gu­ral con­fer­ence in July this year in Dur­ban, has nine pro­vin­cial struc­tures and Ma­dida said the um­brella body was an ef­fort to pool re­sources and ex­press con­cerns with one voice as liquor traders.

Among the is­sues Ma­dida said black liquor traders still had to grap­ple with was the over­reg­u­la­tion of the in­dus­try, which is a ma­jor hur­dle for the growth of black traders in the in­dus­try.

“That is why you rarely see a tav­ern owner grow­ing to be a big­ger re­tailer or sup­plier,” he said.

“This rev­enue is im­por­tant for town­ship busi­nesses, not only for their usual monthly rev­enue streams, but also for their growth. A di­rect, trans­par­ent and fo­cused di­a­logue with the liquor com­pa­nies around these is­sues will en­sure equal­ity across all liquor-trad­ing out­lets, no mat­ter where they are or who owns them,” he said.

Ma­dida said gov­ern­ment has also side­lined the sec­tor in all its busi­ness fund­ing and de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives, de­spite theirs be­ing an in­te­gral part of the tra­di­tional town­ship econ­omy.

“When Lindiwe Zulu [small busi­ness de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter] talks of small busi­ness, we don’t know if we be­long there or not. It’s like we are a child with­out iden­tity. We are be­ing over­reg­u­lated and side­lined in all busi­ness­sup­port de­vel­op­ments. Gov­ern­ment will fund and sup­port ev­ery busi­ness type ex­cept us.

“It is like we are only there to be blamed when bad things hap­pen,” he said. “We want our traders to feel like busi­ness­peo­ple, to be treated like busi­ness­peo­ple. We don’t want the im­bal­ances. “We are be­ing used as scape­goats when peo­ple beat their wives and cause ac­ci­dents. Abuse is never good in any­thing, even Coca-Cola,” he said. Ma­dida pointed out that, though the in­dus­try was over­reg­u­lated, the rules are struc­tured in such a way that it’s dif­fi­cult to en­ter the sec­tor at the bot­tom as town­ship trader and even more dif­fi­cult to progress while al­ready a trader. Ac­cord­ing to Ma­dida, the over­reg­u­la­tion is as a re­sult of the many strict rules im­posed on traders and prospec­tive li­cencees. “For ex­am­ple, an out­let must be at least 500m away from a school or a church, but in some in­stances, the school and church are the ones who es­tab­lish them­selves closer to us,” he said.

He pointed out that the or­gan­i­sa­tion would only get a clearer pic­ture of its over­all mem­ber­ship size af­ter the na­tional meet­ing.

There is also the is­sue of shelf space that ma­jor sup­pli­ers pay for only in big­ger liquor traders out­lets, but not in town­ship out­lets.

The fo­rum, whose big­gest mem­ber­ship is in Gaut­eng and the West­ern Cape, has al­ready met pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives over the is­sue, but will only chart a way for­ward af­ter consolidating all their griev­ances at the up­com­ing con­fer­ences.

Ma­dida be­lieves that unit­ing town­ship liquor traders across South Africa is a crit­i­cal need that will al­low the sec­tor to ad­dress the plight of the dis­ad­van­taged black traders in the liquor sec­tor.

“We are tak­ing our fu­ture and well­be­ing into our own hands by tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity to fight the con­tin­u­a­tion of the abuse, ex­ploita­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion of our peo­ple in the liquor in­dus­try,” said Ma­dida.

Com­ment sought from the depart­ment of trade and in­dus­try spokesper­son Sid­well Medupe on this mat­ter was not forth­com­ing.

Linda Ma­dida

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