Foreigners ‘stripping us of our livelihood’

2011-05-21 10:49

Soweto spaza shop owner Mandla Yende was forced to lay off his five employees, had his bakkie repossessed and has had to watch his business slowly crumble.

All this in the past six months.

Yende, who lives at the Freedom Park informal settlement, is one of many local business owners who want to see an end to businesses being owned by foreign nationals in Gauteng townships.

“I am struggling to support my family because my business is going down.”

Like many other local business owners, Yende joined the Greater Gauteng Business Forum (GGBF) out of concern that his livelihood is being stripped away by foreign nationals who trade in the townships.

Yende is the organiser of the GGBF.

He says they don’t have a problem with immigrants living in South Africa, as long as they do not trade in places where there are shops owned by locals.

“My business is surrounded by three shops I have to compete with to make ends meet.

There is a shop owned by a Bangladeshi behind me and two Somalis own shops a few houses away from my shop,” said Yende.

Soon after his business started collapsing, Yende was approached by one of his Somali neighbours with an offer to buy him out and take over his shop.

“That is an insult, how can they expect me to sell my business to a foreigner in my own country so that they become richer and end up employing me?” Business owner Linda Ndlovu from Diepkloof Zone 2 in Soweto says her spaza shop is on the brink of closing down.

“I have already lost my bakkie because I couldn’t afford it and now I might have to shut down my business, which is my only source of income,” said Ndlovu, who sells sweets, biscuits and other small items.

Ndlovu said a 12.5kg bag of mealie meal costs R49, but foreign nationals sell it for R44 in their shops.

A loaf of bread is sold for at least R3 cheaper than locals charge, depending on where the shop is located.

Ndlovu said: “How do you, as a South African, compete against that when you have a family to feed, and rent and school fees to pay?” Makhosana Mhlanga, the chairperson of the GGBF, said foreign nationals should be kicked out of townships because they did not contribute to the country’s economy as their profits get sent to their home countries in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia.

He said the government should put in place policies and restrictions that would make it difficult for “outsiders” to come into the country and trade.

“We expect our government to boost us as small business owners trading in the townships and if it doesn’t, we may be forced to take action ourselves in order to protect our livelihood,” he said.

The attacks and threats against foreign traders are not only happening in Gauteng.

Last week the Peninsula Business Forum marched to Parliament to protest against the alleged influx of foreign businesses in Western Cape townships.

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