Call for clarity on spaza shops during Covid-19 lockdown
Referring to Small Business Development Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni’s announcement last week on the question of foreign-owned spaza shops being allowed to operate during the lockdown, Mbehle said: “The minister previously said during a ministerial briefing that all spaza shops in communities would be allowed to operate during the lockdown period.
“However, she went on to muddy the waters by saying that those spaza shops that will be open are strictly those that are owned by South Africans, managed and run by South Africans. This is a hugely problematic statement as there is no provision in the regulations for differentiation between South African and immigrant-owned spaza shops, so there is no basis in law to target micro-retailers for closure.”
Mbhele said he would ask Ntshavheni to communicate with her counterpart in the police portfolio, Bheki Cele, concerning police action.
“We have received reports of SAPS officers being confused about whether or not to close unlicensed spaza shops (regardless of ownership) and an executive directive is needed informing the police that such spaza shops must be allowed to remain open.”
Calixte Kavuro, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Public Law at Stellenbosch University, said: “Ntsheveni’s approach fails to take into consideration the legal positions of foreign nationals who are holders of permanent resident permits, refugee status permit, asylum-seeker permit and business visas and who were, on top of all of these permits, issued licences to run small business.”
Meanwhile, Tax Justice South Africa founder Yusuf Abramjee said the banning of certain goods being sold could further fuel illicit trade.
“Illegal traders are delighted to have new customers for their illicit alcohol, cigarettes, medicines and even food. South Africa already loses R100 billion in taxes to the illicit economy every year.” Abramjee said the government should reconsider rules on certain items to prevent illicit trading and in turn save the economy.@MwangiGithahu