Picture: GALLO IMAGES/FOTO24/ MARY-ANN PALMER
Picture: GALLO IMAGES/FOTO24/ MARY-ANN PALMER

The EFF has been dealt a sobering legal blow.

The party’s decision to "occupy" a Port Elizabeth liquor store over claims that the store advertised false promotional prices and abused staff has left the party with a legal bill.

In August, the high court in Port Elizabeth interdicted the EFF from protesting and disrupting Prestons Liquor Store in the suburb of Walmer after the party brought the store to a standstill in April.

The liquor store took the court route following heated e-mail exchanges with the party. The EFF demanded to meet the store’s management after the party in Nelson Mandela Bay had received "reports regarding exploitation of workers at the Prestons Walmer store‚ as well as complaints regarding alleged misleading promotional prices".

Things went downhill when the store said it would investigate the matter with the staff’s trade union and that the party — as a political association — could not be involved. The party’s Khanya Ngqisha fired off an e-mail to the store expressing the party’s displeasure with the response — with a threat to occupy the store.

"I would like to make you aware that we take these matters very seriously and we hope you will grant us an opportunity to address them through a meeting‚" Ngqisha’s e-mail read.

"If you are declining to meet us‚ you will then give us no choice but to mobilise our members and occupy Preston Stores as a demonstration of our unhappiness. We will also use media to expose the conduct of Preston Stores."

But this failed to whet the liquor store’s appetite to meet the party and‚ instead‚ it accused the EFF of using intimidation tactics.

Preston’s lawyers also warned the EFF against its intentions to disrupt the store and said the store would take legal action. But that solicited an English lesson from Ngqisha.

"And please tell you client to look up the word occupy in the dictionary‚" wrote Ngqisha.

"He will be surprised that it not associated with any threats. Simply means filling up of space. So go and tell your client that we will enter into Preston as customers in our numbers and fill up the space and then asked for a manager. Very illegal. We will then persuade Prestons to have a meeting with EFF. Very illegal. So you can see that even though we are Africans‚ we are very civil."

The following day the EFF made good on its promise when "approximately 25 persons wearing EFF regalia entered" the store.

"They proceeded to block the aisles and access to the tills‚" the judgment reads. "They sang songs and clapped their hands. They made no attempt to purchase the items … [and] customers were intimidated."

The store obtained an interim interdict against the party in April. About two months later‚ a number of men entered the store and placed "a large amount of liquor on the country counters at the till and prevented other customers from paying".

"In one instance‚ the sale was rung up by the cashier. The person who was at the till‚ however‚ said he would rather go to another liquor store to make his purchase‚" the judgment reads.

"Two other till points were engaged in similar manner. At one‚ a man sought to purchase some snacks. When these were rung up‚ he walked away back into the store. The effect was that other customers could not utilise the till points to make their purchases‚ thus disrupting the normal course of business."

Police were called in but they could not enforce the court order because none of the people blocking the tills wore EFF clothing and could not be identified as the party’s supporters.

Ngqisha‚ who appeared in court in person‚ denied that the party had anything to do with the disruption. But judge Glenn Goosen granted the final interdict, although he spared the EFF a punitive costs order.

"The [EFF members] are interdicted and restrained from organising and/facilitating and/or promoting and/or encouraging and/or inciting any unlawful activities on any of the [store’s] business premises where [store] trades as a liquor retailer under the name ‘Prestons’‚" said Goosen. "[EFF members] are ordered to pay the costs of the application jointly and severally on the scale as between party and party."

Ngqisha could not be reached for comment.

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