Plural regulation of shebeens (informal drinking places)

Drivdal, L., & Lawhon, M. (2014). Plural regulation of shebeens (informal drinking places). South African Geographical Journal, 96(1), 97–112. doi:10.1080/03736245.2014.896282

Cape Town
Publication type
Scientific article (peer-reviewed)
CityLab Programme
DOI Title
Plural regulation of shebeens (informal drinking places)
South African Geographical Journal
0373-6245 2151-2418
Laura Drivdal Mary Lawhon
Published year
Geography, Planning and Development General Earth and Planetary Sciences
plural regulation shebeens alcohol informal settlements governance Cape Town



The regulation of space is understood to extend beyond the state to include decentralized, diffuse non-state actors. In South Africa, the regulation of shebeens has long been considered a means for state regulation of behaviour, controlling crime and disorder and generating state income. The post-apartheid state has sought to distance itself from old patterns, but struggles to respond to the problems associated with alcohol consumption. Non-state actors have sought to intervene in this gap. We examine how diverse actors contribute to the regulation of drinking and drinking spaces within informal settlements in Cape Town. Through applying a plural perspective on regulation, we identify and discuss strategies through which residents, shebeen owners and community leaders regulate the flow of alcohol and shebeen practices. We find some synergies between different actors' ideas regarding how shebeen practices should be regulated; however, we also see that while the current police regulation focuses on confiscation and arrest, actors within the settlements prefer softer regulation that takes into account the actual situation at hand. By displaying conflicts and intersections between formal and informal regulations of shebeens, we hope to inspire more research on plural, decentralized, and everyday regulations of alcohol and in the complex spaces of informality in the urban South.

Related publications