8 January 2018

South Africa: Police Shut Down Immigrant Shops

Police shut down two shops run by foreign nationals in Wallacedene, Kraaifontein, on Friday evening.

Francine Tshiamba, who runs Francine Spaza Shop in Phase 4A, said she was arrested with her two children: a toddler and an infant. She said all three of them were taken to the charge office at the police station, and left there. But they were released without being charged. A "police officer drove me back home along with my kids."

Francine's husband, Fisto Kabeya, said the police told him and his wife that they were not allowed to run their business. "They said we have not consulted the police before opening the shop."

The couple, who are Congolese, began renting and operating the shop in November. On Saturday, they continued to sell despite Friday's incident and the police instructing them to close the shop down.

"We use the shop to survive because we are both jobless. We have no alternative source of income," said Kabeya. He said he relied on the shop to raise his two children, buy food and pay rent.

Hadidja Mgoqi operates a spaza shop in Fukuse Street, Phase 1. She said her assistant phoned her from Kraaifontein Police Station to say he had been arrested. She said that when she went to the station, Acting Station Commander Captain Mnoneleli Magobiyane told her that she could not open the shop "because it was under discussion." She said that Magobiyane instructed police to bring her husband, Nasur Abdul, to the station. Abdul is Somali.

According to Mgoqi, when Abdul arrived, Magobiyane asked why he continued to run the shop even though community leaders had told him to shut it down.

She said Magobiyane told her that he was closing her shop for her and her husband's safety.

"I'm worried that meat, fruit and veggies will soon start to rot," Mgoqi said. But she is scared to reopen the shop because the police often drive past to check if it is closed. "I grew up here, so I don't know why I can't open a shop here."

She said that community leaders told her to shut down her spaza shop on 3 January.

Captain Magobiyane told GroundUp: "There are two shops located close to each other in one area. We cannot allow two shops to operate next to each other. It will create havoc. The community leaders will have a meeting with City officials, and law enforcement and educate people about shop ownership and by-laws on 17 January. The shops must be closed until that meeting. It is a decision that has been taken by the community leaders."

Asked if the police needed a court order to close the shops, Magobiyane responded: "The issue has nothing to do with courts. It is the community leaders who feel that if the traders have shops close to one another, a conflict may develop."

This is not the first time the police have done this. They shut down a shop in Wallacedene in May 2017.

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