The proposed Gauteng Township Economy Bill is threatening to cause an almighty row in the province, after the draft local legislation edged closer to becoming law. The potential set of regulations has been labelled as ‘divisive and undemocratic’ by critics within the DA, as the Makhura Administration seeks to enforce a long-standing promise.
The Bill was made open for public comments at the end of last month, and it is set to be tabled in the Gauteng Legislature. One of the key economic regulations mentioned in these proposals seeks to limit the amount of foreign nationals who can operate businesses within township communities.
Although this proposal has been rumbling for a few years, it seems that Gauteng’s elected officials are now closer than ever to imposing strict controls on who can trade in areas worst-hit by poverty. Tensions between domestic and foreign business owners have been particularly inflamed in the last 18 months or so.
Many residents in places like Alexandra – Gauteng’s biggest township – feel that their economic opportunities are limited by the presence of overseas vendors. However, the DA has gone on record to oppose the stipulations in the Township Bill. Shadow MEC for Economic Development, Makashule Ganga, says the move would only ‘fuel xenophobia’.
“In its current form, the Township Bill discriminates against foreign nationals and fuels xenophobia in our communities. The Bill has also not considered the changed nature of where South Africans live and work; it also has the potential to encourage fronting and drive township enterprises underground resulting in more informality in the economy.”
“We should not see foreign nationals in South Africa as a threat but as partners in rebuilding our ailing economy. This is an opportunity for skills and knowledge transfer. We should be looking at building inclusive communities where residents benefit from each other rather than segregating people on the basis of nationality.”Makashule Gana