For­eign­ers’ shops to be reg­u­lated by coun­cil

The Mercury - - NEWS - Bongani Hans and Samkelo Mtshali

FOR­EIGN­ERS who own busi­nesses in Dur­ban’s north­ern town­ships, Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu, have been given a re­prieve af­ter a last-minute deal was struck with lo­cal shop own­ers who had given them un­til to­day to close their shops.

A deal be­tween the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of lo­cal busi­ness own­ers un­der the ban­ner of the North­ern Re­gion Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion (Norba) and the for­eign na­tion­als was struck on Tues­day night fol­low­ing the in­ter­ven­tion of Premier Wil­lies Mchunu.

Un­der the new agree­ment, the for­eign­ers will no longer be ex­pected to close their shops by to­day and will be al­lowed to con­tinue op­er­at­ing un­til May 24.

On May 24, all tuck­shops will be ex­pected to close for a ver­i­fi­ca­tion process as part of a plan to reg­u­late trade in these town­ships.

Com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the for­eign traders and lo­cals had led to a sour­ing of re­la­tions which cul­mi­nated in the lo­cals is­su­ing an ul­ti­ma­tum to the for­eign own­ers to close their shops.

Lo­cals, who mostly be­longed to Norba, had com­plained that their for­eign com­peti­tors, who are pre­dom­i­nantly So­ma­lis and Ethiopi­ans, had in­tro­duced un­fair busi­ness prac­tices which had forced them to shut their shops.

In a state­ment is­sued yes­ter­day, the premier’s of­fice said the process to reg­u­late the in­for­mal trad­ing in the area would start soon.

“A task team made up of the Of­fice of The Premier, Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, Tourism and En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs, Com­mu­nity Safety and Li­ai­son, eThek­wini, Norba and the So­mali and Ethiopian traders would soon meet to kick-start the ver­i­fi­ca­tion process.”

Threats against for­eign traders had cre­ated fear of pos­si­ble xeno­pho­bic at­tacks.

Mchunu said the agree­ment to reg­u­late and for­malise all tuck­shops was wel­comed by all par­ties who at­tended the meet­ing.

“This agree­ment is a win for all par­ties as it pre­vents vi­o­lence and a sit­u­a­tion where we have to be chas­ing peo­ple with the police be­cause the law has been bro­ken,” Mchunu said.

Norba chair­per­son Vusumuzi Msomi said lo­cal busi­ness own­ers had raised con­cerns about the un­fair busi­ness prac­tices of for­eign na­tion­als since 2014.

“Since 2014, we’ve been hold­ing meet­ings with­out find­ing solutions, which is why we sent let­ters to for­eign­ers telling them, peace­fully, that we are giv­ing them 14 days to close down.

“Their shops are spread­ing across the town­ship, leav­ing us with no space to trade, hence we are forced to close our shops,” said Msomi.

eThek­wini deputy mayor Fawzia Peer said the city’s Busi­ness Sup­port depart­ment would be tasked with con­duct­ing an au­dit of how many for­eign na­tional-owned shops were reg­is­tered in Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu (INK).

Guid­ance

“Ac­cord­ing to the for­eign­ers, they had sub­mit­ted a lot of forms to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, so Busi­ness Sup­port needs to check where the forms are and that will give us guid­ance as to how many in­for­mal traders should be al­lowed in the area.

“The task team will sit to­gether and ver­ify the reg­is­tra­tions and de­velop the cri­te­ria we’re go­ing to use to regis­ter them be­cause you can’t use the same cri­te­ria as that of for­mal traders,” Peer said.

She added that the main griev­ance of the lo­cals was that there was a “huge in­flux” of for­eign na­tion­als op­er­at­ing in the area with around 400 for­eign-owned shops in the INK area.

Ethiopian busi­ness­man Ja­mal Mo­hummed, who spoke on be­half of the for­eign­ers, ac­knowl­edged that there were for­eign­ers who had been push­ing lo­cal shops out of busi­ness.

“As for­eign­ers we have held sev­eral meet­ings where we asked them (other for­eign­ers) to stop open­ing their shops close to those owned by lo­cals be­cause it is un­fair. Lo­cals need to make an in­come to sup­port their fam­i­lies,” he said.

Ahmed Mo­hammed, chair­per­son of the KZN So­mali Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, said he was hope­ful that, with the es­tab­lish­ment of the task team, com­mon ground could be reached by all par­ties in­volved.

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