KZN pre­mier’s re­prieve for for­eign shop­keep­ers

The Star Late Edition - - NEWS - BONGANI HANS AND SAMKELO MTSHALI

FOR­EIGN­ERS who own busi­nesses in Dur­ban’s north­ern town­ships have been given a re­prieve af­ter a last-minute deal was struck with the lo­cal shopown­ers who gave them un­til yes­ter­day to close their doors.

The deal be­tween the lo­cal busi­ness own­ers – un­der the ban­ner of the North­ern Re­gion Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion (Norba) – and the for­eign­ers was struck on Tues­day night, af­ter KwaZulu-Na­tal Pre­mier Wil­lies Mchunu in­ter­vened.

Un­der the new agree­ment, the for­eign­ers will no longer be ex­pected to close down their shops and will be al­lowed to con­tinue op­er­at­ing un­til next Thurs­day, when all the tuck­shops will be ex­pected to close down, as part of reg­u­lat­ing trade in these town­ships.

Com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the for­eign traders and the lo­cals had led to the sour­ing of re­la­tions, cul­mi­nat­ing in the lo­cals is­su­ing an ul­ti­ma­tum to the for­eign shop­keep­ers to close their shops.

Lo­cals, who mostly be­longed to Norba, have ac­cused their for­eign com­peti­tors – mainly So­ma­lis and Ethiopi­ans – of un­fair busi­ness prac­tices, which forced them to shut down their shops.

A task team made up of rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the KZN of­fice of the pre­mier; eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, tourism and en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs; com­mu­nity safety and li­ai­son; the eThekwini Metro; Norba; and the Somali and Ethiopian traders will meet to kick­start the ver­i­fi­ca­tion process.

Threats against for­eign traders had cre­ated fear of xeno­pho­bic at­tacks.

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

“This agree­ment is a win for all par­ties as it pre­vents vi­o­lence and an un­ruly sit­u­a­tion re­quir­ing po­lice ac­tion be­cause the law has been bro­ken.

“We have come here and ask to be given the space to gov­ern,” Mchunu ex­plained to the gath­er­ing.

Vusumuzi Msomi, the Norba chair­per­son, said lo­cal busi­ness own­ers had since 2014 raised con­cerns about the for­eign­ers’ un­fair busi­ness prac­tices.

He said the com­peti­tors were em­ployed by uniden­ti­fied busi­ness own­ers to pene- trate the town­ships and de­stroy lo­cally owned busi­nesses.

“Since 2014, we have been hold­ing meet­ings with­out re­solv­ing the sit­u­a­tion, 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 down our busi­nesses,” Msomi pointed out.

eThekwini deputy mayor Fawzia Peer said the ball was now in the city’s court, par­tic­u­larly its busi­ness sup­port de­part­ment, to con­duct an au­dit of how many for­eign-owned shops were reg­is­tered in the Inanda Ntuzuma KwaMashu (INK) area.

She said the au­dit would get un­der way soon and con­tinue un­til the dead­line next Thurs­day.

“The for­eign­ers say they have sub­mit­ted their 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 per­mit­ted in the area.

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

The lo­cals’ main griev­ance was the “huge in­flux” of for­eign­ers op­er­at­ing in the area ,with around 400 for­eign-owned shops in the INK area alone.

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 the lo­cals, be­cause it is un­fair. The lo­cals also need to gen­er­ate in­come to sup­port their fam­i­lies,” he said.

Ahmed Mohammed, chair­per­son of the KZN Somali Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, said a task team on which they serve was now in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Norba, the Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment De­part­ment and the mu­nic­i­pal­ity in a bid to find a speedy so­lu­tion to these on­go­ing prob­lems.

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