Plan to empower spaza shop owners


ECONOMIC Development Minister Ebrahim Patel is drawing up a plan to empower spaza shop owners by beefing up their business acumen.

He said the government's focus on spaza shops was based on their ability to create jobs through entrepreneurship. Formal training was on the cards.

"But the question is: How to manage this with the danger of xenophobia?" he said.

Patel's comments at the breakfast hosted by the Progressive Business Forum on the sidelines of the ANC policy conference, came amid calls by some in the ANC to stop foreigners from owning spaza shops.

The proposal has come under fire from People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty, which slammed the move as misguided and a mistake.

Western Cape ANC secretary Songezo Mjongile was recently quoted as saying an explosion of foreign-owned shops had out-muscled local owners and must be done away with or it could lead to outbreaks of xenophobia.

Mjongile said the issue came up at the ANC provincial general council two weeks ago where concerns were raised about township entrepreneurs "disappearing".

Patel said the concept of "business as usual" was not what the country needed, adding that economic growth required bolstered efforts to address inequality.

He urged business to continuously engage with government to fast track socio-economic transformation .

But he acknowledge that these kinds of discussions required time and energy, adding that the payback was often delayed.

Business was more than willing to participate in the economy but felt the government was denying them the opportunity.

One such businessman was Justice Ledwaba, CEO of Lephalale Site Services.

He complained that the government was failing to disseminate information when it embarked on business ventures in small towns like Lephalale, and that multinationals were deliberately denying them the information out of fear of competition.