By Thokozile Mntambo
Thulani is a community in South Africa with a population of 43000 and over 134 foreign nationals whose majority are shop owners around the area. Since 2014 there have been xenophobic attacks around the area which have seen people looting shops as they allege that these shops are not registered and are not complying with the tax obligations. The looting has seen people getting hurt while others have been arrested .In August this year a young girl was shot dead by a Somalian shop owner in the midst of violence where community members were looting his shop.
Community leader Mr Rikhotso Zama Zama who is the coordinator of the local peace committee recently called a meeting and invited all stakeholders to discuss the negative impact of xenophobia and to come up with solutions to stop it.
During the meeting participants mentioned that foreign nationals have failed to create jobs for locals and they are not effectively working with the community as they isolate themselves. Men Against Crime of Africa (MAFCA) is one organisation that has been working with the local councillor. These came up with a resolution to close down some of these shops and this saw the closing down of six shops. They also started a business forum with them and urged them to register their businesses and to start paying tax. In their investigation they also unearthed that some of the Ethiopians, Bungalis and Somali shop owners were fighting amongst themselves with some alleged to have been paying nyaope boys to rob other shop owners.
An interview with the locals showed that some community members want foreign national shop owners to go back to their countries since they claim that they are in exile though the businesses they have managed to set up speak a different story. Community members have reached a consensus and are calling on the government to start programs that will help them in establishing small businesses.
“When foreign nationals came to our area where they have established their businesses we also had our tuck shops but they did not register and at the same time our own tuck shops were not providing all the requisite services. Going forward, we need to come together in solidarity and share ideas on how to establish our businesses”, the participants said.