South African Police allegedly discriminated against foreign nationals, shutting down immigrant-owned spaza shops early on Friday (March 27) morning in Govan Mbeki, Port Elizabeth, citing the 21-day national lockdown to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. The Minister for Small Business, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni was allegedly outrightly xenophobic in her approach ordering that spaza shops owned by foreigners be shut down.
Out of fear and confusion, the spaza shop owners were confused, scared and had to comply. After the police left, South Africans forced the immigrants to open their shops.
Later, the police returned and pepper sprayed Mohammed Surat for defying lockdown order. People were pushed out of the shop while their goods and money was still on the counter.
POLICE CAPTAIN CLOSE SPAZA SHOP BECAUSE THE OWNER IS NOT SOUTH AFRICAN
Similarly, according to the Daily Maverick, another foreign national, Abdukadir Mohamud of the King Spaza said: “Six police vehicles from KwaDwesi Police Station arrived early in the morning and ordered me to close my shop. I showed them my municipal registration certificate. But their captain told me I am not even a South African. I should close down my shop.”
“After they left the community ordered me to reopen. I reopened and the police came back again before noon. They ordered everybody to get out. The shoppers confronted them. But the cops did not listen. They just pepper sprayed them. Twenty-one shops here in Govan Mbeki Township have been closed by the police. But residents are just forcing us to continue trading after the police have left. And we are still operating in fear of our stock being looted if we don’t listen to the residents.”
Meanwhile, a few hours before the lockdown, South African Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola said spaza shops will remain open in order for the people to buy food at the nearest shops.
People may only go further afield if they cannot get what they need in their immediate environment. This is to minimise unnecessary movement as much as possible, according to the Minister of Justice.
In a funny twist, the Minister of Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said at the ministerial briefing on the lockdown this week that strictly only South African owned and operated spaza shops would be allowed to trade. She said: “We want to make sure that the quality of food and surety of the quality of products is there.”
Her statement was a shocker to many as she insinuated that foreigners shops sell fake goods and South Africans sell genuine goods.
Later, the ministry swallowed its words in shame and said only spaza shops with municipal licences will be allowed to trade.
The another drama ensued – drama of grammar and semantics – National police spokespersons Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo added to the puzzlement saying: “The Regulation makes reference to supermarkets, and spaza shops are not supermarkets.” What’s the difference between spas shops and supermarket to people who are locked down and need food?
Daily Maverick repotted further that Phakamisa Gaga, who has a physical disability, was inside the King Spaza shop when police arrived. “I was busy buying bread when police ordered us to get out. I asked them whose orders they were following because the minister explained it clearly that all the legal spaza shops will remain open.
“But the stupid police just pepper sprayed me in my eyes. What they are doing is wrong. We can’t be locked down when we are hungry.”
It is evident that authorities in South Africa did not consider the people in informal settlements and townships were they wanted to lockdown South Africa.
Resident Mhleli Nenene confirmed this when she ventilated her frustrations that there erelong queues in town and they could not get groceries. “We depend on these spaza shops. Some of us don’t have taxi fare or vehicles to go to town. Even there it is not safe because of the long queues in those big supermarkets. We say to the spaza shop owners, open up the shops in order for us to buy and obey the lockdown.”
Another resident Yolanda Metele said the police are the one misbehaving by pushing them and locking down spaza shops whilst they (residents) told spaza shops to open and allow the police deal with the residents,
The words of Said Mohamud, provincial chairperson of the Somali Community Association further cemented a seeming xenophobic tendency from the Minister of Small Business whom he said the police confirmed to him thus: “We went to the police station commanders but they say they are also confused because they were given instructions by the minister of small business to shut down all the foreign owned spaza shops. But what we understand is that only unregistered spaza shops without municipal certificates are not allowed to operate.”
“We told them that the buildings were owned by South African landlords and we are just the tenants. We even told them that we were helping communities by bringing the services close to them. But they said they will arrest us if we don’t close our shops.”