spaza shop

Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / David Harrison

Government must clarify regulations on spaza shop operation – DA

Some foreign-owned spaza shops have been closed by police during the 21-day national lockdown, and the DA are deeply concerned about the ramifications of such action.

spaza shop

Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / David Harrison

Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Small Business Development, Zakhele Mbhele has called on government to clarify regulations regarding the operation of spaza shops during the national lockdown.

Mbhele says the government’s decision to close spaza shops owned by foreign nationals was problematic and urged Small Business Development Minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni to ensure that regulations are applied consistently.

Closing foreign-owned spaza shops has no basis in law

The shadow minister says that the decision to close spaza shops owned by foreigners had no basis in law and was not in the best interests of the communities served by such establishments.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to Small Business Development Minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, requesting a clear and public pronouncement from her on the question of spaza shops being allowed to operate during the lockdown, and urging a The DA have called for consistent application of the regulations, in line with the rule of law.,” Mbhele said in a statement issued to the press on Sunday.

“The Minister previously said during a ministerial briefing that all spaza shops in communities would be allowed to operate during the lockdown period (as explicitly provided for in paragraph B of Annexure B, in reference to Regulation 11A, which deals with essential services). However, she went on to muddy the waters by saying that ‘those spaza shops that will be open are strictly those that are owned by South Africans, managed and run by South Africans’.

“Furthermore, many such residents do not have a means of transport (with minibus taxi and bus operations being suspended or heavily curtailed) or the money to travel, should they find the transport to take them shopping.”

Why the closures are so problematic

According to the DA MP the closure of foreign-owned spaza shop is a hugely problematic statement for two reasons:

  1. There is no provision in the regulations for differentiation between South African- and immigrant-owned spaza shops, so there is no basis in law to target micro-retailers for closure according to the nationality of the owner(s); and
  2. Spaza shops are usually the closest shop for residents in most communities to get basic foodstuffs and household essentials. If the idea of the lockdown is to have ‘as little movement as possible’, as was said by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, then spaza shops need to be open, now more than ever, otherwise, the lockdown is rendered ineffective if people have to go to shopping malls, thus travelling and congregating in larger numbers.

Mbhele asked Minister Ntshavheni to communicate with Police Minister Bheki Cele to ensure that regulations were applied consistently.

“We have received reports of SAPS officers being confused about whether or not to close unlicensed spaza shops (regardless of ownership) and an executive directive is needed informing the police that such spaza shops must be allowed to remain open, in aid of ensuring minimal movement by consumers during the lockdown, but must then be referred to the local municipality or Small Business Development Department to assist them to become compliant,” Mbhele added.

“The DA understands that the various state organs are navigating uncharted waters during this unprecedented time, but the authorities should not miss the wood for the trees and thus lose sight of the substantive issues underpinning the lockdown.”