Police on high alert as 'deadline' looms for foreign shop owners to close unlicensed shops in Durban

Spaza shop. (Vathiswa Ruselo, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)
Spaza shop. (Vathiswa Ruselo, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)

Police are on high alert in townships north of Durban, as the "deadline" for foreign shop owners to shut down their unlicensed businesses looms.

The North Region Business Association sent a letter to foreign nationals who are among the shop owners last week, telling them to shut down their businesses in Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu by Thursday.

In response, KwaZulu-Natal police say they have beefed up security, to try and prevent a recurrence of xenophobic attacks in the area.

"Security measures are in place in all the affected areas. Police are continuing with constant patrols in all identified areas," said Captain Nqobile Gwala.

"No threats have been reported at this stage," Gwala added.

A resolution was taken at a meeting in KwaMashu on Tuesday night that unlicensed spaza shops and small businesses in the area would have to register their businesses or face being shut down.

Read: Small businesses in KwaMashu, Inanda, Ntuzuma to be regulated

The meeting was attended by Premier Willies Mchunu, the association and foreign business owners.

The association told News24 that it was not optimistic about resolutions taken to address the issue of unregulated spaza shops and small businesses.

On Tuesday, association head Mlungisi Mncube said that, while there had been a meeting with the premier's office, matters were still complex. He insisted that the association's motives were not xenophobic.

Mncube said the main issue was that too many businesses and spaza shops were popping up in the same area.

"In a way, someone has to close. As it is, the situation is untenable. You will go on a street and see three shops, one after another. Where are we going to get customers?" he asked.

'Too many spaza shops in one area'

Spokesperson for Mchunu, Thami Ngidi, said unlicensed businesses would now be closed.

"A process will start to register them properly. There is a process of regularising that will take place," he said.

He concurred that there was a "mushrooming of too many spaza shops in one area".

In the past, foreigners have been attacked in the area. In May 2017, foreign national shopkeepers were targeted by KwaMashu locals.

Also read: 'We want foreigners gone' - Mahikeng protesters

Social media posts, claiming that foreign nationals were behind the abductions of young children, appeared to have spurred on the locals to attack foreigners.

In January 2015, a foreign business owner was shot dead in Nhlungwane, Inanda.

In December 2014, there were two petrol bomb attacks on shipping containers, from which Somalian nationals operated their businesses, in KwaMashu's C-section.

A follow-up meeting with all relevant stakeholders has been scheduled for May 24, Ngidi said.

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