News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Saturday November 18th 2017

Somali shops closed down in Khayelitsha

A local business association is preventing Somalis from opening shops in Harare, Khayelitsha, claiming a 2008 agreement between them and the Somali Retailers Association disallowed any new Somali traders from operating in the area.Somali traders in the area say the actions of the Zanokhanyo Retailer Association, which closed down three new Somali-owned businesses last week, is discriminatory and raises fears of xenophobic attacks.

Since the 2008 agreement made in the wake of the countrywide xenophobic attacks in May that year, a total of ten new Somali-owned businesses have opened, only to be shut down again.

Three of those were closed last Friday, when Zanokhanyo chairperson Myalezi Mdubuli and other top representatives told them to shut up shop.

One of the shop owners, who only wanted to identify herself as Pamela, said she got a call on Wednesday last week from Mdubuli, telling her to close her shop because no Somali-owned were allowed in the area.

Pamela said she approached the ward councillor who referred her to the local SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) branch.

Sanco branch chairperson Mhlophe Gantsho said the agreement between Zanokhanyo and the Somali Retailers Association was not valid as the community was never consulted.

“What Zanokhanyo is doing is very wrong. This law was not approved by the community.”

“I totally do not agree with Zanokhanyo because this (agreement) was supposed to be taken to the people.”

Pamela said as a result, Gantsho advised her to re-opened her shop, which she did on Monday after closing for the weekend.

Hers is the only new Somali-owned business to be operating in the area since 2008.

A number of other Somalis interviewed in Khayelitsha said they didn’t know who to turn to for help.

One Somalia from Khayelitsha said “I don’t understand why they closing our shops, this is not right we already have a stock and paid rent so who’s going to pay back our money?”

Residents who rent part of their property to Somalis to run a shop are also upset.

Pensioner Nosamkelo Nyawuza said he had hoped to get some income from renting a room to a Somali to run a shop but have been stymied by Zanokhanyo.

“We were told to close down the shop; we asked them for the chance because we have no income.

“We are too old to be hired anywhere but they never listened,” said Nyawuza.

He says he is now struggling to pay off debts incurred to fix the room up as a shop.

“This was the last chance for us to escape hunger, but Zanokhanyo has taken it away,” he said.

Mdubuli, who was Sanco chairperson in 2008, said the agreement between Zanokhanyo and the Somali Retailers Association was valid, and brought a document signed by himself as Sanco chairperson, a representative from Zanokhanyo and Khayelitsha Somali Retailers Association whose signatures was illegible, and a SAPS community crisis representative Mfundisi Mbekwa.

He said he had the right to close down new Somali-owned shops in terms of the agreement. — Nombulelo Damba, West Cape News

Tags: cape town, Khayelitsha, Sanco, saps, somalia, ward councillor

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