Township economy bill would fuel xenophobia, DA’s Makashule Gana says
The bill seeks to reserve certain economic activities in townships for citizens or those with permanent resident status
DA Gauteng member of the provincial legislature (MPL) Makashule Gana has lambasted the province’s proposed “township economy bill”, saying it seeks to drive foreign nationals out of townships and fuels xenophobia.
In September, the Gauteng provincial government published a draft of the Gauteng Township Economic Development Bill and opened it for public comment.
The bill seeks to reserve certain economic activities in townships for citizens or those with permanent resident status. It does not say which foreign-owned business would not be allowed to trade in SA.
If passed, the draft bill could restrict where foreign nationals may set up formal and informal businesses in SA’s economic hub.
The country’s township economy is valued at R400bn, equivalent to almost 8% of GDP annually, and employs about 2.6-million people.
Gana said the DA was deeply concerned that the proposed bill’s main aim was to drive foreign nationals out of townships.
“We should be looking at building inclusive communities where residents benefit from each other rather than segregating people on the basis of nationality,” he said.
He said the manner in which the bill was put forward was reminiscent of apartheid spatial planning and that it sought to have designated areas of trade and living for people based on nationality.
“This is contrary to the principles of democracy, the constitution as well as what is set out in the immigration act, which makes sure that foreign nationals living in the country are afforded rights in SA,” said Gana.
“It has not considered the changing 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,” he said.
Gana posited that the DA will make a comprehensive input on the bill and once it has been tabled before the portfolio committee the party will call on the public to comment on the bill.
“The DA believes that we should not see foreign nationals in SA as a threat but as partners in rebuilding our ailing economy. This is an opportunity for skills and knowledge transfer,” he said.
The bill has already drawn mixed reaction in the country. It has been castigated by various lobby groups and organisations representing foreigners in the country. But got support from some in the ruling party and in the national assembly.
Business for SA (B4SA) chair Martin Kingston told Business Day that B4SA supported “several aspects” of the bill in national legislation.
“These include ... the focus on facilitating inclusive growth in townships through improved access to finance, technology and support, as well as improving data collection and availability,” said Kingston.
“However, B4SA would be concerned around provisions similar to section 7(2) of the bill, which restricts designated business activities to citizens or permanent residents, and would urge reconsideration of similar provisions.”
Head of the school of economic and business sciences at Wits University, Prof Jannie Rossouw, echoed Gana’s statement, saying the bill was a bad move on the part of the Gauteng government.
“We want foreign investment in the country and province. The more limitations you put, the less attractive it will be,” said Rossouw.
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