Re­veal trade se­crets, min­is­ter tells for­eign­ers

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - KHULEKANI MAGUBANE Po­lit­i­cal Writer

FOR­EIGN business own­ers in SA’s town­ships can­not ex­pect to co-ex­ist peace­fully with lo­cal business own­ers un­less they share their trade se­crets, says Small Business De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Lindiwe Zulu.

The gov­ern­ment is as­sem­bling a task team to ad­dress vi­o­lence and ten­sion be­tween lo­cal and for­eign business own­ers.

Loot­ing of for­eign-owned busi­nesses spread to Ekurhu­leni on Mon- day. Yes­ter­day Ms Zulu called for stronger reg­u­la­tion of for­eign business op­er­a­tions in town­ships to be fast-tracked.

In an in­ter­view on Mon­day she said for­eign business own­ers had an ad­van­tage over South African business own­ers in town­ships. This was be­cause lo­cal business own­ers had been marginalised and been of­fered poor ed­u­ca­tion and a lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties un­der apartheid.

“For­eign­ers need to un­der­stand that they are here as a cour­tesy and our pri­or­ity is to the peo­ple of this coun­try first and fore­most. A plat­form is needed for business own­ers to com­mu­ni­cate and share ideas. They can­not bar­ri­cade them­selves in and not share their prac­tices with lo­cal business own­ers,” Ms Zulu said.

Crim­i­nal­ity, loot­ing and mur­der would never be con­doned, she said, adding that th­ese took at­ten­tion away from the valid con­cerns about busi­nesses which did not op­er­ate ac­cord­ing to the law from lo­cal business own­ers, she said.

“There is a lot of crim­i­nal­ity… there are se­ri­ous is­sues be­ing raised but oth­ers are hi­jack­ing those con­cerns,” she said.

Muham­mad Os­man of the So­mali As­so­ci­a­tion of SA in the Western Cape said if the gov­ern­ment in­tended to reg­u­late for­eign business then all busi­nesses in town­ship ar­eas need to be reg­u­lated on a level play­ing field.

Re­search fel­low at the SA In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs Peter Draper said Ms Zulu’s re­marks, un­der­scored gov­ern­ment’s mis­trust of for­eign

in­vestors which was also re­flected in business reg­u­la­tions. “If you con­nect this to the broader pic­ture, es­sen­tially this is part of a thrust to sin­gle out for­eign business, which is con­trary to the po­lit­i­cal mes­sage Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma went to por­tray in Davos. We are at a tip­ping point and we are go­ing beyond it. You can only push for­eign business so far be­fore they dis­en­gage,” he said.

Mr Draper agreed with Ms Zulu’s re­marks on the ef­fect of apartheid on lo­cal business own­ers in town­ships but said for­eign business own­ers had to con­front their own chal­lenges with lit­tle state support.

“Apartheid did dis­ad­van­tage black peo­ple and over gen­er­a­tions it in­hib­ited so­cial cap­i­tal. Many for­eign­ers have trad­ing en­trenched in their blood. Wher­ever they go they bring so­cial cap­i­tal, net­works and ex­tended fam­ily. Is that un­fair? I don’t think so. That’s life,” he said.

Ms Zulu’s com­ments show the about-turn in the African Na­tional Congress’ (ANC’s) ide­ol­ogy of Pan African­ism and in line with re­marks by party lead­ers. After a week of loot­ing in Soweto last week, ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe told res­i­dents in Doornkop that im­mi­gra­tion laws needed to be strength­ened to pro­tect the coun­try from ter­ror.

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