‘We can’t compete on prices’

STRUGGLING TO MAKE ENDS MEET Moses Zulu has had to move his spaza and tuckshop into his home. Picture: Cebile Ntuli
STRUGGLING TO MAKE ENDS MEET Moses Zulu has had to move his spaza and tuckshop into his home. Picture: Cebile Ntuli

Moses Zulu, a spaza shop owner in Diepkloof, Soweto, has had his fair share of challenges operating a business in the township.

Zulu, a member of the SA Spaza and Tuckshop Association, claims foreign-owned businesses are killing businesses like his.

He says foreigners are not properly scrutinised by authorities and they also outprice local businesses.

After losing his job at a major courier company in early 1991, Zulu finally started a business nine years later – an eatery in one of the busier streets in Diepkloof.

The business went well despite the fact that a Somali-owned spaza shop later opened across the street.

“At least they were not selling what I was selling. I was selling food only and it is a spaza shop,” said Zulu.

Then, in 2012, the Somali spaza shop owner opened an informal food outlet a few streets from his home.

After operating the eatery for a few months, the area was rezoned and the land split into two. A shopping centre opened a few hundred metres away from him on one piece of land while he remained on the other.

But he was told he could not connect his water and electricity anymore because the shopping centre needed more electricity and water.

“I was told if I connected water and electricity, they wouldn’t have enough for another big store they wanted to open at the centre. I can’t sell food without water and electricity so I moved back home,” Zulu said.

Along with the decision to relocate his business back home, Zulu decided to acquire a liquor licence for his residential premises as it was a not a busy enough area to sell only food.

He then had a spaza shop and also sold liquor from his home with the hope of making ends meet.

But a few houses down the street a Pakistani-owned spaza shop opened and once again he faced stiff competition.

On the day City Press visited the Pakistani shop, which seemed fully stocked, it was not buzzing with customers. But it looked like a very healthy business.

“Those guys are overpowering us with buying power. They price so low until you are out of business and once you are out of business, they raise the prices again,” said Zulu.

He alleged his foreign counterparts did not pay taxes and so gained an unlawful advantage over him.

township economy

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July 2020

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