spaza shop

Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / David Harrison

Lockdown SA: Only locally owned spaza shops will remain open

Spaza shops owned by foreign nationals will be forced to close their doors for three weeks.

spaza shop

Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / David Harrison

Spaza shops owned and managed by South Africans have been classified as essential services exempt from the national lockdown which begins at midnight on Thursday 26 March 2020.

In line with regulations pertaining to the Disaster Management Act — with protocol specifically designed to limit movement and social gathering — Small Business Development Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has revealed that spaza shops will remain on condition that they are owned, managed and operated by South Africans.

Spaza shops to remain open during lockdown

Furthermore, only spaza shops which are licensed with municipalities will be open for business during the three-week lockdown. Ntshavheni noted that currently-unlicensed spaza shops will be “brought into the fold” through municipal engagements.

The lockdown, declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa as a means of curbing the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout South Africa, will effectively shut all “non-essential” services and prohibit movement outdoors. South Africans have been urged to stay indoors and only leave their homes should they need food or medical attention.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and South African Police Service (SAPS) have been tasked with enforcing the stringent regulations.

Ntshavheni, who, in her role as minister, has offered governmental assistance to small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMME), a category closely associated with the informal market and spaza shops in particular.

Foreign-owned spaza shops forced to close

While nearly all lockdown regulations apply to persons who currently reside in South Africa, regardless of their nationality, the issue of spaza shop exemptions has left some store crying foul. According to a study conducted in 2015 by the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, roughly half of all spaza shops, in the Western Cape alone, are foreign-owned and managed.

Ntshavheni noted that the decision to prohibit spaza shops owned by foreign nationals from operating was, in part, connected to quality control in a time of crisis.

“We want to make sure that the quality of food and products are there.”

Addressing a media briefing in Pretoria earlier this week, Ntshavheni added that spaza shops would receive government assistance:

“We are going to support the spaza shops in terms of bulk buying and we will indicate the mechanisms we will put in place for the shops.”