Foreigners warned not to reopen businesses yet

Johannesburg - The safety of foreign shop owners in Soweto is not guaranteed as fundamental issues have not yet been addressed, Soweto Business Access (SBA) said on Tuesday.

"They should not open their businesses yet as the core issues raised by local residents have not been resolved," chairperson Mphuthi Mphuthi said in a statement.

He said problems commonly heard about entrepreneurs from Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh included not employing locals, not ploughing money back into the township economy, being rude, and not paying taxes.

"It is for this reason that we at Soweto Business Access call on all South Africans who have suggestions and solutions to come forward," Mphuthi said.

"We believe that we must first listen to South Africans. Let South Africans come up with solutions on things like how jobs can and will be created from local small businesses."

The SBA, an umbrella body of professionals that help small enterprises in Soweto, said it hoped that in talks with influential business bodies, business-friendly solutions could be found for "this economic problem".

"Thereafter, we can engage the foreign nationals. But it is the interests of South Africans which must be prioritised," Mphuthi said.

"If they come back, their safety is not guaranteed as these fundamental issues would still be outstanding. We want Soweto to set the benchmark that will improve businesses in other townships."

Week-long unrest, looting

A week of unrest and looting of foreign-owned shops began in Soweto last Monday, when a foreign shop owner shot dead 14-year-old Siphiwe Mahori. He was apparently part of a group trying to break into his shop.

The looting then spread to other parts of Gauteng, including Diepsloot in the north of Johannesburg, and Kagiso on the West Rand.

On Sunday, in an open letter to President Jacob Zuma, the African Diaspora Forum (ADF) said government continued to deny xenophobia in South Africa.

"Despite the escalation of violence over the past six years causing numerous deaths, the government has denied that there is xenophobia... always questioning the nature of this violence and attributing it to ‘crime', instead of recognising it for what it is, xenophobic violence," ADF chairperson Marc Gbaffou wrote.

"This attitude, from our perspective, has condoned the violence and allowed it to reach institutional heights, making things even more difficult for foreign nationals living in South Africa, but also for South Africans wishing for social peace and integration."

The letter, dated 24 January, was also addressed to Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko.

At least seven people, including a 1-month-old baby boy, have died in Gauteng since violence broke out between locals and foreign nationals last Monday.

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