Did you hear the one about the small business minister who said foreigner spaza shopkeepers must share their â€œtrade secretsâ€ orÂ else? Sadly, it’s not a joke.
Speaking on Monday, small business development minister Lindiwe Zulu said that foreign business owners â€“ like those who were attacked and had their shops looted in Soweto and neighbouring townships last week â€“ should shareÂ their business practices with locals if they wanted to live and trade here without fear of disturbance or violence.
â€œForeigners need to understand that they are here as a courtesy and our priority is to the people of this country first and foremost. They cannot barricade themselves in and not share their practices with local business owners,â€ Zulu added. The minister implied that South Africa is doing foreigners a favour by â€œlettingâ€ them reside within our borders.
Zulu isnâ€™t the only minister to have made irresponsible comments concerning foreigners of late. Speaking in Soweto last week, ANCÂ secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said that South Africa must tighten itsÂ immigration laws in order to prevent terrorism in the country.
Zulu believes that the lootings, which she condemned, have overshadowed the â€œreal concernsâ€ of local business owners about how foreign traders do business.
Many people have condemned the ministerâ€™s views on this issue, calling her comments atrocious and right-wing.
Columnist TO Molefe called the comments â€œatrociousâ€, while political commentator Eusebius McKaiser described them as â€œshockingâ€ and said that they, in effect, constituted â€œstate-sponsored xenophobiaâ€.
“@TOMolefe: Atrocious comments. Lindiwe Zulu must go” The kind of remarks that in effect constutute state sponsored xenophobia. Shocking.
â€” Eusebius McKaiser (@Eusebius) January 28, 2015
Writer Percy Zvomuya pointed out the absurdity of the statement.
Next, min Zulu will be asking Zimbabwean maids and Malawian gardeners to reveal their trade secrets…
â€” Unga Dambakushamba (@percyzvomuya) January 28, 2015
AlthoughÂ ZuluÂ has demanded that foreign shop-owners reveal their secrets,Â an interview with The Mail & GuardianÂ last yearÂ shows thatÂ sheÂ seems to know why they are successful businesses as compared to their local counterparts.
â€œLet me tell you why they [foreign spaza shop owners] are better at running shops than the local owners â€“ they have a great network system. And also thatâ€™s how they live. From the moment they are born, they are introduced to trade. Their mothers, uncles â€“ everyone trades. They start at an early age,â€ Zulu said last year.
By allowing foreign business owners to be immigrants, the government had given them a right to make a living, Zulu said at the time, adding: â€œIt is a human right.â€
So, why the sudden change of heart Minister Zulu?
– Featured image via GCIS.