Small business minister wants spaza-shop trade secrets

Did you hear the one about the small business minister who said foreigner spaza shopkeepers must share their “trade secrets” or else? Sadly, it’s not a joke.

Speaking on Monday, small business development minister Lindiwe Zulu said that foreign business owners – like those who were attacked and had their shops looted in Soweto and neighbouring townships last week – should share their business practices with locals if they wanted to live and trade here without fear of disturbance or violence.

“Foreigners 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,” Zulu added. The minister implied that South Africa is doing foreigners a favour by “letting” them reside within our borders.

Zulu isn’t the only minister to have made irresponsible comments concerning foreigners of late. Speaking in Soweto last week, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said that South Africa must tighten its immigration laws in order to prevent terrorism in the country.

Zulu believes that the lootings, which she condemned, have overshadowed the “real concerns” of local business owners about how foreign traders do business.

Many people have condemned the minister’s views on this issue, calling her comments atrocious and right-wing.

Columnist TO Molefe called the comments “atrocious”, while political commentator Eusebius McKaiser described them as “shocking” and said that they, in effect, constituted “state-sponsored xenophobia”.

Writer Percy Zvomuya pointed out the absurdity of the statement.

Although Zulu has demanded that foreign shop-owners reveal their secrets, an interview with The Mail & Guardian last year shows that she seems to know why they are successful businesses as compared to their local counterparts.

“Let me tell you why they [foreign spaza shop owners] are better at running shops than the local owners – they have a great network system. And also that’s how they live. From the moment they are born, they are introduced to trade. Their mothers, uncles – everyone trades. They start at an early age,” 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: “It is a human right.”

So, why the sudden change of heart Minister Zulu?

– Featured image via GCIS.