State: Only one way to close shebeen
Johannesburg - Confiscating a couple's house in Athlone was the only way of shutting down a shebeen, the Constitutional Court heard on Thursday.
The shebeen had neighbours and police at the end of their tether, Geoff Budlender, for the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), told the court.
"The applicants laughed in the face of the police and the justice system," he said.
The occupants would pay a fine and go straight back to business because they weren't just some "hole in the wall" making a little bit of money.
‘Instrument’ of organised crime
They were making a lot of money, Budlender said.
The matter involves an Athlone, Cape Town, family whose house was forfeited to the State in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
The family is applying for leave to appeal against the forfeiture order that was granted by the Western Cape High Court.
That court considered the house an "instrument" of organised crime.
Budlender said on Thursday liquor was found in so many rooms of the house that it was difficult to decide if the property was a shebeen used as a home, or a home used as a shebeen.
The couple had been arrested more than 60 times, not just the 52 stated by their lawyers, and a neighbour had repeatedly written "painful" letters complaining of the disturbances caused in the street by the shebeen.
The police resources directed to that house was no longer justifiable given the other policing obligations the police have in that community.
Even when the first step - a preservation order - was issued against their home, trading still carried on, Budlender continued.
The applicants believe that the forfeiture was not proportionate to their crime, and that the rights of their children to shelter was not considered.
Budlender rejected this, saying the couple previously stated that they had enough money to pay the bond on their home, so they should then be able to pay rent.
The NDPP did not agree that the couple should be allowed to "piggy back" on the rights of their children, stay in the house to continue their unlawful activities.
The NDPP would however, accept any guidance from the court.