Mandela’s war on booze
Mthatha - Tavern owners in Mvezo are operating under pressure, with their chief, Mandla Mandela, trying to shut down their businesses because he wants no alcohol “on his land”.
Late last year, the Mvezo chief personally prevented a truck belonging to AB InBev, formerly SA Breweries, from offloading a consignment of booze at the Nceduluntu Tavern.
Mandela, an ANC member of Parliament, told the truck drivers never to deliver alcohol to his village again, despite the fact that the taverns were licensed and operating legally.
Nceduluntu Tavern owner Nolulamile Mdudo said although AB InBev trucks were now allowed to deliver alcohol after the company and the Eastern Cape Liquor Board intervened, she was not sure how long it would be before the chief struck again.
Mandela converted to Islam to marry his latest wife, Rabia Clarke, at a lavish wedding in Cape Town in February last year. His new religion forbids alcohol. However, it would appear that Mandela’s war on booze in Mvezo has been going on for longer than that.
“This young man was not doing this thing for the first time. In 2008, he tried to close down another tavern here in Mvezo and intimidated people who were drinking there. So that is why we are saying he might be planning something else to shut us down,” Mdudo said.
Mdudo said she was there when Mandela, the eldest grandson of late president Nelson Mandela, prevented an AB InBev truck right outside her yard from offloading her booze.
“He confronted the AB InBev people on the truck, asking them why they brought such a big truck full of alcohol onto his land. I was shocked because even if he does not drink alcohol, we know that he keeps alcohol at the great place for his guests,” she said.
“If he was so much against alcohol he would not have it at his home. For a whole month, trucks could not deliver our orders.”
Mdudo said what made matters worse for her was that her tavern was close to the Makgatho Lewanika Primary School, a school for whose construction Mandela was instrumental in raising R30 million. She said by law, a tavern was supposed to be at least 100m away from a school and that her business was more than 200m away.
“What upsets me is that he is closing down our businesses but does not give us any alternative. We send our children to school and make a living out of these businesses,” Mdudo said.
Mandela told City Press on Friday night that, as chief of Mvezo for the past 10 years, he had never approved any tavern licence.
“There has never been a community meeting here in Mvezo where we discussed allowing the operation of taverns. But what we see are people who have bought licences and we are still puzzled as to how they obtained these documents,” he said, adding “any application must be supported by the community in which you are to trade”.
He said the proximity of the Nceduluntu Tavern to Makgatho Lewanika Primary School was of great concern. “But I don’t want to get into a war about tavern issues when my main concern here is development in a community that I am trying to make thrive and bring jobs to,” he said.
“How many jobs have we created in Mvezo? Do you mean that the money made from the jobs we create as the traditional council should all be spent on taverns?”
He said it was inconceivable to expect poor people to spend the little money they had on alcohol.
“They [tavern owners] must not shift the content. We have had no meetings with them. We only met AB InBev on matters of development. We support job opportunities as a traditional authority, so if taverns are creating jobs, then we will support them. But we must encourage our people to use money in developing themselves. And I don’t see how taverns develop a poor community,” he said.
At a meeting in Mvezo in November, Mandela told residents there was a “racialised struggle” against alcohol sales because there were taverns in townships and villages but not in white or rich areas.
He also told the meeting that his father, Makgatho, who died in 2005, warned him and his younger brother, Ndaba, to stay away from liquor.
“When my father died I know that he was HIV positive ... One of the direct causes or influences of his death was alcohol,” he said.
“He told me and Ndaba that we must look at him as an example that alcohol is bad, that we must never drink alcohol. I don’t know what a child of my father who drinks alcohol means when they say they are a Mandela.”
Another irate tavern owner, Zoleka Nyakombi, said the Mvezo chief was “full of apartheid”.
Nyakombi runs the Masincedane Tavern about 1km from the Mandela School of Science and Technology.
No more problems
“Mandla has issues. His problem is that he does not want to see us small businesses people thrive. Even here in my own tavern he caused problems,” she said.
“In 2015 he told people at the Mandela school that my tavern should be removed but the community would not budge. His view was defeated.
“He [has given] apartheid even to the people of Mvezo. He is selfish ... It’s segregation to suggest that other people must close down their businesses because he has money to feed his family.
“My children will sleep on empty stomachs when the tavern is closed down.”
Sinenhlanhla Mahlaba, AB InBev’s Mthatha regional manager, confirmed Mandela prevented their trucks from entering Mvezo and that they were only allowed back after senior managers from AB InBev’s corporate affairs division in Durban intervened.
“He was complaining about underage drinking and alcohol abuse. So we committed that we would invest in the community and create awareness. We also committed to bringing sustainable programmes into the community and [to] plough back [to the people]. So on our side the matter has been resolved; we don’t anticipate any more problems,” he said.
Eastern Cape Liquor Board spokesperson Mgwebi Msiya said they also had to intervene.
“We initiated a meeting with the chief in Mvezo along with AB InBev after we heard about Mandla’s concerns ... It’s an intervention we want to sustain over time. We committed to educate people on alcohol instead of [the route of] him preventing trucks [from delivering alcohol],” Msiya said.
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