JOHANNESBURG – A north Durban business association has given foreign nationals until tomorrow to shut their businesses and leave the area.
The association accuses foreign nationals of unfair business practices and suffocating township economies.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu met with the disgruntled association and the province's Somali Community Council in KwaMashu on Tuesday.
They form part of the association operating in the lucrative INK area made up of Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu townships.
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“This is a long story. Since 2014, we’ve been meeting with different stakeholders, until we decided to write a letter asking them to leave peacefully. We gave them 14 days to shut down and leave. We could then plan how they come back, because their presence makes us unhappy. Each container has four people living in it. They sleep, bathe and do everything there. I believe that’s not right for a normal person’s life," said Northern Region Business Association Chair, Vusumuzi Msomi.
Msomi denied the group's actions are xenophobic.
“If that’s the case, we wouldn’t have written this letter giving them a 14-day ultimatum. We would have done whatever we wanted to. We had many meetings with police and councillors, and everybody knows we want them to leave peacefully, shut down peacefully. So that we can negotiate properly how they come back in an orderly way. In a way, we're helping the government here, because we're local business people who employ South Africans. None of them employ South Africans.”
But foreign-national business owners say the move is just business jealousy.
Ethiopian business owner, Jamal Andullahi, said: “We are running the business like any business people. We got no problem with the community itself. Our big problem is with the business association people. This is another way a competition over the business that’s the way I understand it.”
Given South Africa's history of xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, they feel unsafe.
“We need the provincial government to protect us as the refugees. We have been allowed to live in the country. We got basic right to live in the country. We, all who live in the township, we are legal in the country. We run the business fairly and helping the community,” said Andullahi.
KwaZulu-Natal's provincial government says it’s concerned about the heightened tensions between local and foreign-national business people.
Mchunu says his government will continue to engage with affected stakeholders to ensure tolerance and social cohesion.