Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
HLABANGANA Lounge was shut down by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) last Friday because it was operating illegally and Highlanders Football Club (where it was situated) were on the verge of losing their 99-year lease with the local authority if it continued operating.
Having been opened in May, Hlabangana was run by socialite and comedian Babongile Sikhonjwa.
The joint had become popular as revellers would congregate there to have their evening drinks during weekends and especially after their team, Highlanders, would have played.
Chronicle Showbiz this week asked the local authority why they shut down Hlabangana, of which the City of Bulawayo’s senior public relations officer Nesisa Mpofu said the establishment was operating illegally.
“The City of Bulawayo initiated the closure of Hlabangana Lounge. The reason being that the lounge was an illegal activity as it was not authorised by Council. The lounge was operating on Council land which was leased to Highlanders Football for Amateur Sports,” said Mpofu.
She said Highlanders Football Club’s decision to sublet the premises was a violation of their agreement, something which could lead to the termination of the lease.
“The lounge was operating illegally as a sublet on Council property. It came to our attention that Highlanders had actually sublet part of the land to Hlabangana Lounge which is a violation of the terms and conditions, which alone is enough grounds to terminate the Highlanders lease,” said Mpofu.
When it was open, people would patronise the joint to have drinks and braai meat, of which according to Mpofu, those running the place had not been licensed to do so.
“Further to that, the lounge was selling meat on premises that are not inspected, approved and registered as a butchery. All butcheries must be inspected, approved and registered in terms of the Bulawayo (Registration of Premises) by-laws.
“The handling of food and the conduct of food handlers is monitored under the Bulawayo (Public Health) by-laws which were also being violated by the lounge,” said Mpofu.
Furthermore, according to Mpofu, there were complaints from residents around Hlabangana about its operations.
She encouraged those who want to operate such places of leisure to adhere to laid down by-laws.
“All liquor outlets are licensed in terms of the Liquor Act by the Liquor Licensing Board. Hlabangana Lounge was not licensed. Depending on the type of liquor licence, some of the premises are also subjected to the Bulawayo (Registration of Premises) by-laws,” said Mpofu.
She said those who break the by-laws are fined and handed over to the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
“The City of Bulawayo through the Health Service Department enforces the Bulawayo (Registration of Premises) by-laws and the Bulawayo (Public Health) by-laws through the inspectorate unit. Offenders are referred to the Zimbabwe Republic Police Licence Inspectorate for prosecution.”