Fake food flooding SA’s townships



Published Oct 17, 2023


A competition between Pakistani businessmen and Bangladeshi businessmen in Johannesburg has led to two Pakistanis exposing a fake food production centre in Swaneville west of Johannesburg yesterday.

About 3km from Krugersdorp, tucked behind Lodirile Secondary School, is a production hub of fake beans, packaged as Koo beans, fake cornflakes, spaghetti, noddles, cough syrup, fake cool drink such as Lemon Twist and Coca-Cola, milk, and Grand-Pa medication for headaches.

The house, which is owned by Bangladeshi nationals who are married to South African women, even produces laxative tablets and condoms. The condoms are recycled from used condoms or fake condoms branded as Lovers Plus condoms.

The Pakistani nationals are in a huge contest for business with their Bangladeshi counterparts. The syndicate works by foreign nationals arriving in South Africa and paying their principals R25 000. The principals are Pakistani nationals who have been in South Africa longer and have made contacts at the Department of Home Affairs.

The money is used to initiate asylum seekers’ documents, start-up stock and protection from the police. The principals are said to be connected to people in power. The whistle-blower, who introduced himself only as Mohammed, said he has two shops in the area and pays the landlord, a South African, R4 000 in rent.

The deaths of children in Soweto and the West Rand has cast the spotlight on the dangers of the continued sale and consumption of counterfeit goods. Last week, four children died due to the consumption of poisonous counterfeit foods such as snacks and biscuits.

According to Tax Justice South Africa (TJSA) and the SA Revenue Service, this industry has cost the country’s fiscus billions of rand.

“If it were not for the increase in illicit goods being sold on the streets, at tuck shops, or any other areas, the country’s fiscus could afford another R12 billion for education, R6.5bn for health, and another R6.5bn for community development,” TJSA said.

The production of fake foods and products is not a new phenomenon. In 2018, the police in Northern Cape arrested five men and a woman for producing counterfeit sanitary towels, shoe polish, food, condiments and other items.

This week, following the death of the four children in Soweto and the West Rand, Operation Dudula and civil rights movement Not In My Name International called for the closure of spaza shops operated by undocumented and illegal foreigners in the Gauteng townships. Not In My Name International is calling on South African citizens to peacefully close down foreign-owned spaza shops in their areas.

The movement highlighted how poor communities, especially in townships, were surrounded by illegal spaza shops run by foreign nationals who sold counterfeit goods.

“We wish to take this opportunity to commend the community of Delmas in Mpumalanga who took it upon themselves on Monday to close down spaza shops belonging to foreign nationals. This is a very progressive step that must be supported and adopted as a programme of action by all forward-thinking South Africans,” said the movement’s spokesperson, Mo Senne.

Zandile Dabula, speaking on the sidelines of the funeral service of the two Naledi boys, said the government is to blame for not enforcing the country’s laws and for allowing foreigners to take over the spaza shop market in the country’s townships.

“We have been saying to the health departments to send your inspectors to these spaza shops to ascertain what the people are consuming. This is not being done, and we as the movement, we will make them take accountability for the deaths of these children. This has happened to five children who have died under the same circumstances, which means that this is not an isolated incident but a common occurrence pointing to food bought from spaza shops,” Dabula said on Wednesday.

It is believed that Pakistani and Bangladeshi shops are now in every township in South Africa, with the exception of Delmas.

The Star has contacted the SAPS about the fake food house in Swaneville.

Attempts to get comment from the Department of Home Affairs and the Pakistani Embassy were unsuccessful at the time of publication.

This is a developing story.

The Star