Xenophobia poster. Picture: EPA/NIC BOTHMA
Xenophobia poster. Picture: EPA/NIC BOTHMA

The business dealings of informal traders — both local and foreign — will fall under the spotlight as the provincial government moves to allay fears of xenophobia in Durban’s townships.

Foreign shopkeepers‚ largely from African countries‚ were threatened by a local business association last week.

The group‚ purported to represent South African informal traders‚ issued a letter to foreign business owners to close up their shops and cease all operations.

On Tuesday night, premier Willies Mchunu met traders from Inanda‚ Ntuzuma and KwaMashu. According to a statement issued by his office‚ Mchunu resolved to conduct new verification of all spazas‚ ensuring that all had the relevant licences.

"The entry of new spazas will be properly managed‚ taking into consideration the economic viability of operations including the distance between each other‚ and homes."

"Ethekwini municipality would start drafting and implementing regulations to govern the spazas in the city with a commitment to better regulate entry into the business‚" the statement read.

The townships in the region have a propensity to foster an antiforeigner sentiment‚ which has resulted in outbreaks of xenophobic violence.

However‚ the Northern Region Business Association’s Mlungisi Mncube said there was no guarantee that they would abide by Mchunu’s resolutions and that their members might still forcefully close foreign-owned shops.

"We are going to have a meeting tomorrow [Thursday] and try and convince our members to take up the offer of the MEC, but we can’t promise anything. They [the provincial government] have left it too late. We all agree that the number of shops in our area is more than can be accommodated, so there will be violence anyway‚" he said.

"We will use the process of ‘last in first out’ and just shut these people down. Also, one person owning 20 shops will not work. Their leaders [foreign shopkeepers] cannot control their people. We will rather close them all down and start afresh."

Police in the region remain on high alert.