A Wallacedene community leader admits telling a Malawian tuck-shop manager to close his business but claims it was for the man’s own good because of an agreement preventing any new foreign-run shops from opening.
Derrick Letlaila, the Kraaifontein Community Police Forum sector sub-forum chairman for Wallacedene, said the Malawian man had been running the shop for his girlfriend who is South African.
He said all foreign-run shops that had opened after 2007, following a wave of xenophobic violence, had been asked to close in the area.
“I was there. I told them to close the shop because we want everyone to be safe,” he said.
Mr Letlaila would not reveal the identity of the woman or where she lived but admitted to telling her to close the business. He said he was acting on the authority of the community.
“In 2007, we counted and there were 72 foreign-owned shops in Wallacedene,” he said. “We decided, these people are already here, let’s give them a chance. We won’t chase them out. We are not chasing anybody out, but the community decided we didn’t want anymore shops by foreigners.”
The decision was made to protect foreign nationals, Mr Letlaila said.
“We need to protect them. We don’t want them to get hurt. This is a South Africa for all. Whites, coloured and Africans stay here, and we don’t want our brothers to get hurt, that is something that we don’t want.”
According to Mr Letlaila, many of the residents in the RDP housing complex rent their properties out, often to foreign nationals, who then open businesses from the homes, and the community does not like this.
“The important thing is we don’t want people to be killed. There are a lot of people in South Africa that don’t have opportunities, and we want them too,” he said.
Wallacedene ward councillor Simpiwe Nonkeyizana said he was aware of the agreement, even though it had been established under the eye of his predecessor.
“But the Somalis were part of that agreement. There was an agreement that there would be no more than 174 shops. The Somalis in the area are policing themselves,” he said, explaining that foreign nationals already running shops in the area had been asked by the community to prevent any new shops from opening.
He was not aware of any recent incidents of shop owners being forced to close.
“I can’t actually say this never happened but I don’t know about it,” he said. “If it did happen, it must have been a very small incident.”
Ali Mohamed, a Somali, has run a grocery store in La Boheme Road, a main road, for five years. He would therefore have opened after 2007, but he said he had never been asked to close, nor had he been treated unkindly by the community.
Wallacedene resident Thembalam Ngomankulu said the community had many foreign-owned businesses, but they were left to their own devices.
“Competition is playing a role,” said Mr Ngomankulu, whose brother is a fruit and vegetable vendor.
Most of the foreign shops, he said, charged lower prices. “Some people feel they are stealing their customers because their prices are lower, but each shop must make sure they are the best. We shouldn’t be racist.”
The Northern News asked the police if any foreign nationals had laid charges of intimidation but they did not respond by the time this edition went to print.