DETERMINED to avoid xenophobic attacks in its townships, the municipality of Mohokare into which Smithfield falls, has been meeting with foreign informal traders living in the area to find a way forward.

Shadrack Buyeye, local economic development manager for the municipality, has had talks on the issue with traders in the townships of Zastron, Rouxville and, most recently, in Smithfield. Following the meeting in Smithfield’s Mofuletshepe township this week, Buyeye said that the municipality was prompted to act after ‘several concerns’ were raised by local informal business traders ‘against their foreign counterparts’. They were unhappy about the fact that ‘non-South Africans are opening shops all over the townships, and to a large extent are invading the trading territory of local traders and gradually squeezing them out of trade.’ This tension had led to ‘physical conflict’, said Buyeye.

He has statistics to illustrate the situation: in Smithfield, for example, out of a total of 26 informal township stores, only one was locally owned while 25 were owned by ‘foreigners’. In nearby Rouxville 20 out of 23 township tuckshops were owned by non-South Africans, and in Zastron, the municipality’s third town, only 10 of the 38 tuckshops were owned by locals.

Buyeye said the municipality was concerned by these figures which it felt amounted to a ‘serious challenge’ and needed intervention through the LED office. Speaking after the Smithfield meeting, attended by virtually all of the ‘foreign’ tuckshop owners as well as some South African traders, Buyeye said they had adopted a proposal which would now be sent to the council. Once approved, action would be taken: all such businesses would from now on require licences; a moratorium has been imposed on the issuing of any further licences to foreigners or South Africans; the principle of ‘one person, one tuckshop’ would be adopted to prevent a situation where one person owned a number of such shops; no new licence would be granted if the proposed business was less than 500 m from another tuckshop.

Buyeye said he had appealed to the foreign shop owners to help benefit the local economy by creating jobs for local people in the shops, and that the traders attending the meeting had agreed to do so. The non-South African tuckshop owners had further offered to ‘put something back’ by collecting money to buy school uniforms for local children unable to afford the cost.

Shadrack Buyeye, local economic development manager for Mohokare municipality after the meeting he called in Smithfield to head off xenophobia over foreign-owned tuckshops; Smithfield is one of three towns falling under Mohokare