Small firms struggle to recover

Dingilizwe Ntuli

Dingilizwe Ntuli

Just when most small businesses in Gauteng were recovering from the incessant power outages, chaos and terror reigned in informal settlements displacing thousands of foreigners as xenophobic attacks engulfed the province.

The violence left at least 62 people dead as mobs of rioters armed with pangas, knives, batons and homemade weapons caused havoc, chasing immigrants away and attacking and looting their businesses.

Some of the shops were looted while others were burnt down as the storekeepers were reduced to mere spectators, witnessing the properties they worked hard for burn to the ground.

Richard Sishuba, Gauteng president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc) said a spot check on some of the body's 4000 members in central Johannesburg and on the East Rand found that most owners were not sure of their security.

Sishuba said although Nafcoc was still compiling the cost of damages caused by the attacks, millions of rands were lost by their members and several firms were now reluctant to open business fearing a flare-up of violence.

He said while the security situation was currently stable, some of their members had halted operations and advised staff to stay at home and others were monitoring events before deciding whether or not to resume operations.

"Restaurants were affected the most because the majority of waiters in this country are foreigners. Even hawkers were affected at the height of the attacks as they feared for their lives and that their goods would be looted," he said.

"About 30percent of people in Alexandra are foreigners and they have been living harmoniously with locals and we don't understand why all of a sudden they are being accused of stealing jobs and committing crime.

"These people are actually enterprising and start small businesses - a skill our people should be imitating to alleviate poverty," Sishuba said.