The ANC in the Western Cape wants the government to cut the number of foreign-owned spaza shops and will push for this during the party’s policy conference in Joburg this week.
ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile said party branches, especially those in townships, were concerned that the majority of the province’s spaza shops were owned, managed and staffed by foreigners, and that locals were “losing out”.
“The ratio between the number of migrants who own spaza shops and locals is completely out,” Mjongile said. “We need a balance around small enterprises in our communities.
“The government must find a way to support locals so that they too can open shops and be economically active, but then the number of foreign-owned spaza shops has to be cut.”
In its Peace and Stability policy document, which is to be discussed at Gallagher Estate this week, the ANC proposes that non-South Africans should not run spaza shops without adhering to “certain legislated prescripts”, which may or may not be different to those applying to South Africans.
Mjongile said the ANC in the Western Cape supported the proposals in the document “100 percent” and that it would be “pushing hard” to ensure that resolutions were made in its favour and adopted.
The document says “non-South Africans should not be allowed to buy or run spaza shops or larger businesses without having to comply with local laws”. It also says that “laws and by-laws have to be made in a way that impacts positively rather than negatively on the informal economic sector”, and argues that the renting of houses by asylum seekers from South Africans for informal trading may contravene by-laws.
Calling for a strengthening and proper enforcement of municipal by-laws, it says: “Ideally municipalities should know who lives and works and runs businesses in their area as well as their status.”
Refugee rights group Passop has described the proposals as “unconstitutional” and “foolish”.
Passop’s Braam Hanekom said he was shocked and surprised that the Western Cape ANC had indicated it would support the document.
“As Passop, we strongly oppose it. It is unconstitutional and a foolish move,” Hanekom said.
He added that it was “extremely concerning” that some of the proposals in this discussion document were already being implemented”.
Hanekom said closing the refugee reception centre in Cape Town and moving it to the border was one of the proposals.
He said while it might be too late to call a meeting with the leadership of the ANC in the Western Cape, Passop would do “everything possible” to ensure that the proposals were rejected. “Supporting this policy document is not in the interest of the communities that the ANC represents,” he said.
“This is anti-immigrant and violates refugee rights.
“The spaza shop owners feed these communities, their prices are the cheapest. The ANC seems to be more concerned about the businessmen and elite in the townships and not the poor families who depend on the foreign-owned spaza shops for cheaper loaves of bread and cups of rice.”
Spaza shop owners are livid about the proposals.
Dunoon cash store owner Katiso Solito of Ethiopia said: “This is very bad. I’m not happy about it, but if the government decides to do it, there’s nothing I can do. My brothers come here to survive. This will destroy them.”
Pakistani Mohamed Jamil manages a cellphone repair shop in Dunoon. He said: “My repairs are cheaper than the local South Africans. These are poor people in these communities. If they don’t want us here, will the locals lower their prices?”
Nigerian Oscar Ikem owns a hair salon and a mobile tuckshop at the Dunoon taxi rank. He said the SA government should not ban foreigners from opening businesses, but should rather regulate the industry.
“Spaza shops have been popping up on every street corner in the past two to three years,” Ikem said. “The government needs to control it better and not just bar people from opening. They should licence us and have a registration process to monitor things better.”
Cheng Long, owner of the Chinise Shop in Dunoon’s main road, said: “The government must allow more foreigners to do business here. Business is very good for us.”
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu declined to comment on the policy document on Sunday. He said no resolutions had been made and that “matters would be discussed in-depth only once the conference starts”.