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2 years ago

Foreign-owned spazas and the Western Cape ANC

This from today’s IOL site:

The ANC in the Western Cape wants the government to cut the number of foreign-owned spaza shops and will push for this during the party’s policy conference in Joburg this week.

ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile said party branches, especially those in townships, were concerned that the majority of the province’s spaza shops were owned, managed and staffed by foreigners, and that locals were “losing out”.

“The ratio between the number of migrants who own spaza shops and locals is completely out,” Mjongile said. “We need a balance around small enterprises in our communities.

“The government must find a way to support locals so that they too can open shops and be economically active, but then the number of foreign-owned spaza shops has to be cut.”

In its Peace and Stability policy document, which is to be discussed at Gallagher Estate this week, the ANC proposes that non-South Africans should not run spaza shops without adhering to “certain legislated prescripts”, which may or may not be different to those applying to South Africans.” (Full article here)

This ongoing story is concerning. By various mechanism, the foreign-owned stores often undercut the prices of the local-owned stores, causing considerable tensions. Back in 2008 a local informal trader association demanded that Somalis raise their prices to match local prices or be forced out of the townships. When conducting her fieldwork in Manenberg, one of my students found that the Somali traders were too afraid to speak to her. 

Charman et al have been doing some fascinating work on how local and foreign traders operate in Cape Town (See here for link to paper in Transformation: Charman, A., Petersen, L. & Piper, L. (2012) Local survivalism to foreign ownership: The transformation of the spaza sector in Delft, Cape Town, Transformation 78)

These local politics of informal trade again seem to be taking place without consideration of what the informal retail sector contributes to food security. 

University of Cape Town
South Africa