In a move to safeguard the well-being of consumers, the Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation, and Tourism in the North West has launched a campaign on spaza shops.
The Latela Molao campaign, loosely translated to follow the rules, is targeting spaza shops selling expired products.
The campaign is spearheaded by the department's consumer affairs directorate.
The campaign came on the back of outrage in various communities, calling for all spaza shops owned by foreign nationals to be closed.
The call followed the deaths of two children in Naledi, Soweto, who died after reportedly eating biscuits they bought from a spaza shop owned by a foreign national.
Two other children died in Vredefort, in the Free State, after they reportedly ate snacks they bought from a foreign-owned spaza shop.
In Lethabong, outside Rustenburg in the North West, spaza shops owned by foreign nationals were closed on Tuesday following an inspection blitz on Monday by community members and Rustenburg municipal officers.
The community wanted all foreign nationals to leave the area, but at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, a resolution was taken to allow foreigners to continue to operate spaza shops.
Those who were not in favour of the decision walked out of the meeting and returned later to disrupt it.
North West Economic Development MEC, Virginia Tlhapi, said the North West
Consumer Affairs would not hesitate to utilise the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which was designed to promote social well-being and protect consumers from exploitation and harm.
"The Act (CPA) seeks to ensure that marketing practices are fair and responsible and that suppliers, producers, and manufacturers are held accountable for what they sell to our people. Sections 22 and 24 of the Consumer Protection Act focus on a consumer's right to proper disclosure of information, while Section 55 highlights the consumer's right to safety and good-quality products.
"Section 61 imposes strict liability across the entire supply chain. The importance of honest, open, and clear disclosure of information cannot be overstated, and all businesses are strongly encouraged to fully adhere to the provisions of the Act."
Tlhapi urged consumers to be vigilant, particularly when it comes to matters of health and safety. She emphasised the department's resolute stance on fostering responsible consumer behaviour, adding that the department was actively encouraging communities to take ownership of their purchases by accurately inspecting the condition of goods and ensuring they receive proper receipts."
“These receipts not only serve as a concrete proof of purchase but also play a pivotal role in assisting consumers when they need to lodge a complaint with our offices."
Tlhapi appealed to communities to refrain from buying medication and skin lighters from local tuck shops as they pose a serious hazard to their wellbeing.
The chairperson of the portfolio committee on Economic Development, Environment, and Tourism, Agriculture, and Rural Development in the North West Legislature, Bitsa Lenkopane, appealed to communities to remain calm.
Lenkopane said the committee received calls and messages from the public panicking about the alleged deaths of children after allegedly consuming poisonous food or grocery items bought from the spaza shops.
The committee called on the communities to remain vigilant and called on the Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation, and Tourism and other relevant stakeholders to investigate these horrifying allegations.
“We are calling on the department to do the inspections and furnish the portfolio committees with a detailed report that should indicate trader categories and their respective consumable products, which are further extended to school learners."
"These must include trader status, whether licenced or not, compliant with the Business Regulation Act or not, which must indicate compliance with Immigration Act 13 of 2002 with regard to foreign-owned businesses."
She said the portfolio committee would rely on the report from the department that should be submitted within seven days.
"The portfolio committee equally appeals to communities to refrain from causing unnecessary unrest and rather report incidents and provide proof to nearest police services. They should also provide accurate information to any government officials who might be dealing with the situation," she said.