Foreign shop owners in SA – Somali spaza owners feel the heat

2012-08-04 15:14

Abubakar Hassan, a Somali spaza shop owner in Du Noon township north of Cape Town, lost all his stock and capital during the 2008 xenophobic attacks.

But he was able to rebuild his business, thanks to fellow Somalis who provided him with finance and stock on interest-free credit.

He is among hundreds, probably thousands, of foreign nationals across South Africa whose businesses were looted during the violence, which left more than 60 people dead and tens of thousands displaced.

Many remain subjected to occasional looting sprees, yet successfully re-establish themselves with the help of supportive networks of fellow countrymen.

South African spaza shop owners, on the other hand, despite advantages such as the ability to open bank accounts and obtain official credit lines, are less successful.

And many band together to try to stop the proliferation of foreign-owned township businesses.

Between February and May, local spaza shop owners in Khayelitsha belonging to the Zanokhanyo Retailers’ Association made numerous attempts to close down Somali-owned shops.

They cited a 2008 agreement between themselves and the Somali Retailers’ Association, in terms of which no new foreign-owned shops would open after the 2008 attacks.

But this hasn’t happened.

Now the biggest concern that Somali shop owners in Khayelitsha have is whether Zanokhanyo can turn the local community against them.

Ethiopian national John Wald, who works in the store of Somali “Bigshow” Mohammed in the Khayelitsha informal settlement of Harare, said they could protect themselves against robbers, but they couldn’t protect their customers.

“I’m only scared the Zanokhanyo people will turn the community against us,” he said.

Zanokhanyo chairperson Mzwandile Mhloko said the proliferation of Somali traders took customers away from South African shop owners.

“We no longer have customers because every street has more than one Somali shop,” he said.

The Khayelitsha Development Forum, however, does not support Zanokhanyo.

Chairperson Michael Benu insisted that everyone had the right to trade.

– West Cape News

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