I attended the public hearing for the application for a gambling licence at premises in Parliament Street in Central last Friday. What concerns me is the hearings were held at the Eastern Cape Gambling and Betting Board’s (ECGBB) premises in Beacon Bay, East London.

It is my understanding, and that of any reasonable person, that in the best interests of the community, a public hearing should be held as close to the affected community as possible, especially when the ECGBB is aware there are in excess of 50 objections. Does this number not justify the board addressing the community directly?

For obvious reasons, none of the objectors could make it to the hearing due to the exorbitant cost of losing a day’s work, travelling to East London and back, etc.

How can this be in the best interests of the community?

I have written to the Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs head for clarity.

I have also submitted legislature questions for written reply, to ask the MEC whether he is aware the ECGBB has its public hearings in East London, regardless of where the licence application is for, making it difficult for members of the community to attend.

I also want to know whether the MEC agrees that having in excess of 50 objections from the community justifies the ECGBB or a departmental official meeting directly the affected community and stakeholders to address their concerns.

If it is a matter of the cost and time of the board members travelling to and from the meetings, then the operational policy should be re-looked at to include a public hearing on site and report thereof given by a departmental official to the board for consideration.

In reading some of the objections there is validity in what is being said and I strongly urge the department to make sure the ECGBB has a meeting with the community before making a decision to grant the licence. – John Cupido, DA spokesman on economic affairs, Bhisho Legislature