PnP’s Ackerman says wrong to restrict foreign traders in Gauteng

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Pick n Pay chairman Gareth Ackerman has criticised the Gauteng provincial government’s plans to restrict foreign nationals from trading in the province’s townships.

Speaking at the Consumer Goods Council of SA’s annual summit this week, Ackerman said the government was going about the issue “the wrong way.”

Banning foreign traders is ‘wrong’

He added that targeting foreign-owned spaza shops would not, on its own, create opportunities for local small traders.

“This is not about banning foreign traders, which I believe is wrong, but more about encouraging small businesses to open and get involved in the supply of goods.” 

The Gauteng government should work with small businesses, both local and foreign-owned, within a formal and regulated framework, Ackerman argued.

The provincial government published the Gauteng Township Economic Development Draft Bill in September. The bill aims to ban foreign traders without permanent residence status from running certain businesses in the townships.

This would create opportunities for locals to participate more in township economies, the Gauteng government said. 

South Africa needs to protect our own spaza shop owners first from the foreign nationals before dreaming of impossible dream. In order for South Africans to reclaim the main scream economy, they must first reclaim small business space.

— Mr lockdown (@Sivuno2) May 31, 2020

The presence of foreign-owned spaza shops in townships has often created tensions between locals and the owners in the past, with xenophobic violence becoming a disturbing and highly visible feature of South Africa’s political landscape.

‘Poor policies’

Ackerman also criticised the government for pursuing “poor policies” during the lockdown.

He said these policies eroded the goodwill President Cyril Ramaphosa generated in March when the lockdown started and caused more harm to the economy.

“I think there were some poor policy decisions taken by the government, especially banning tobacco and keeping it banned for so long. There was no logical reason and the decisions caused a lot of damage to government.”

Ackerman also hailed South Africa’s food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers for “keeping the nation fed” during the lockdown.

“The lockdown was a huge food security issue. No one acknowledged that, as the food industry, we stood up to the many challenges and did the country proud,” he said.

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