Foreign-national shop owners gathered at Moroka police station to collect their goods which were kept at the station for safekeeping after the looting in Soweto. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/Africa News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The raids on supermarkets owned by foreign nationals have also uncovered their grim living conditions.

City of Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina, who has been leading teams, including health inspectors, to these shops across the metro, has laid bare the living conditions of the foreign nationals.

Masina has shared pictures which show some of the owners sleep in their stores.

In one shop raided on Thursday, the owners were found to be sleeping in the roof, where they also kept their stock.

Bread gnawed on by rats, and cats roaming in mini-supermarkets were sights that greeted inspectors.

“We found food stored inside the roof where the shop owners are also living,” said Masina in a tweet.

Supermarkets and spaza shops are being raided in a joint operation with Home Affairs, police and other stakeholders in a bid to clamp down on counterfeit foodstuffs.

“About 13 shops were thoroughly inspected, 12 of which were issued with notices of intended prosecution for failure to produce a certificate of acceptability. All 12 shops were closed immediately.

“Some of the health-hazard items included meat packages that did not indicate a sell-by date, illicit cigarettes, expired and rotten food, and unlabelled frozen mixed veggies. These items have been confiscated and are scheduled to be destroyed tomorrow,” said city spokesperson Themba Gadebe.

“In the previous month alone, of the 211 facilities inspected, 115 have been found non-compliant with the regulated general hygiene requirements for food premises, transport of food and related requirements,” Gadebe noted.

Addressing the community of the Ramaphosa informal settlement in Boksburg, Masina said: “We are not here to victimise foreign nationals but we will not tolerate individuals who are not prepared to adhere to the laws of the country.

“We have come to appreciate that this is bigger than we have thought, and it requires a sustainable programme, which we will soon announce. It is disturbing that out of the 13 shops inspected, we filled to capacity three 8ton trucks with confiscated material,” he said.

In Soweto, the situation remained calm, with the death toll from the previous day’s violence confirmed at four. Three of the victims were shot while another was stabbed, allegedly by foreign shop owners in various areas.

Foreign-national shop owners in Soweto condemned the looting of their stores and claimed that not all of them were selling fake or expired food products.

A large group of foreign-national spaza owners gathered at Moroka police station, where they were collecting their goods that were kept at the station after a violent evening where their spazas were looted.

The station’s parking lot was littered with loaves of bread, torn mealie meal packets, half opened Coca-Cola beverages and other damaged goods while the shop owners packed their stock into hired cars.

Shop owner Muiato Damaka said he was worried about his brother, who he hadn’t seen for two days. “Where are we going to go? No shop, no money, no stuff. I don’t know if my brother is alive or not, and his phone is going on voicemail. People said we must come here because South Africa is a country of freedom, but there’s no freedom.”

Another shop owner, Euelle Gatehon, also from Ethiopia, said: “They came to destroy our lives. We never sold expired goods and these people are taking advantage of us.”

Gauteng police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said 27 suspects were arrested for public violence.

Provincial Economic Deve lopment, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development spokesperson Castro Ngobese said about 200 shops were looted in Soweto.

MEC Lebogang Maile, who visited the sprawling township on Thursday, said: “I think that what’s happening mirrors the bigger problems in society of unemployment and of a economy that isn’t growing at the right pace to be able to absorb the people into the economy.

“We shouldn’t deal with the symptoms only,” Maile said.

The Star