THE City of Joburg is consulting health authorities in a bid to monitor and prevent unsafe food from entering communities following the death of two children who died due to consuming poisonous and contaminated snacks from a local spaza shop.
This latest incident allegedly at the hands of a foreign spaza shop owner, has sparked tensions between locals and spaza shop owners, most of them foreign nationals.
It is reported that on Sunday, a group of children between 4 and 6 purchased biscuits from a foreign-owned spaza shop, and before long started vomiting. The children were rushed to the nearby clinic, but two of them died. Two others were said to be recovering in hospital.
On Wednesday, the Speaker, who visited families of the four children, said something needed to be done to ensure that children and members of the community are protected from dangerous foods.
"We are seeking answers from health authorities in order to give us answers and help unravel deeper issues of monitoring food that is sold and consumed by our communities and townships. One of the things that we need to strengthen as a city is that we should not be having children who have to buy food that is expired.
"It is disturbing and I understand that the community is angry, as they should be. There has been an outcry about foreign nationals. However, I do not want this to be an issue between foreign nationals and South Africans because we do not know what is the status of the people who were selling food as the investigation is still unfolding," Colleen Makhubele said.
While the Speaker was visiting families, the situation remained tense in Naledi with members of Operation Dudula leading operations aimed at shutting down stalls and shops belonging to foreign nationals.
They staged a march to Naledi police station in a bid to get the police to accompany them to one of the foreign-owned shops. Along the way, Operation Dudula and some members of the community confronted hawkers plying their trade next to the police station and told them to shut down their stalls or face evictions.
One of the affected hawkers is Anna Sithole, who specialises in hair dressing just next to Naledi police station, who was forced to close down her stall midway through a session with a client.
Speaking to the media yesterday, Sithole said that in the two years that she has been operating in the area, this was the first time she had had an encounter with angry community members threatening her with closure of her business.
"I have been told to shut down my business because I am a foreigner. I was in the middle of a session with my client when members of Operation Dudula told me to close down because I’m a foreigner. I am now forced to finish the client at home as I fear that they will burn down my stall," Sithole said.
Leader of Operation Dudula, Zandile Dabula, said they will continue to intensify the closure of spaza shops operated by foreign nationals in Naledi and other parts of Soweto.
"We are very saddened by what has happened and we feel the pain of the families who have lost their children due to dangerous and poisonous food from spaza shops operated by the people we call ‘my friend’. They are responsible for what has happened which is why we have launched an operation targeted at shutting down their shops," Dabula said.
According to Gauteng MEC for education, Matome Chiloane, the incident on Sunday affected learners from two Soweto schools. The MEC pleaded with parents and community members to safeguard children from consuming untested food products.
Chiloane said he was devastated by the deaths of two Grade 1 boys from Khauhelo Primary School and Karabo Primary School in Soweto. He called for the community to support the process and pleaded with parents to be extra vigilant about what their children consume.
“This incident serves as a grave reminder to parents and guardians to exercise the utmost caution when it comes to the safety and well-being of our learners. It is imperative that we remain vigilant and ensure that our children are not exposed to harmful substances.
“We will continue to work closely with law enforcement agencies to investigate this matter thoroughly. We wish to extend our sincerest condolences to the affected families and wish the two hospitalised learners a speedy recovery,” said Chiloane.