South Africa: Durban Metro and KZN Premier fail to help immigrant traders after attack

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Traders were driven out of their spaces a year ago. They couldn’t come back

Informal immigrant traders in Durban have been unable to return to their trading spaces in Workshop and Soldiers Way markets for a year.

They were attacked and chased away by a group of people apparently linked to the Association of Military Veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe. But veterans have distanced themselves from the attacks on immigrant traders in Durban.

Immigrant traders say their spaces have been taken over by South Africans.

The city and the Premier failed to intervene and help these merchants.

It has been over a year since foreign nationals have been threatened and chased away from commercial spaces on Workshop and Soldiers Way in Durban.

While traders believe the attacks were carried out by members of the uMkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), the group has distanced itself from attacks on immigrant traders in Durban.

Immigrant informal traders say they struggled to make ends meet because they relied on the sale of their wares as their only source of income. Many people we spoke to, some of whom have been negotiating permits for more than a decade, said they met with senior officials from the city’s business unit to resolve the issue, but to no avail. They also claim that their trading spaces have since been forcibly taken over by South African traders.

They are now pleading for the City to intervene. Mekebe Kelembe, who has been a barber in a tent on Soldiers Way since 2012, said he was first kicked out of his place of business in November 2020. “When I came back in February 2021, I found someone ‘one else there and I was told it was no more I renewed my license in January 2022 because I’m afraid that if I don’t renew it it will be cancelled,’ said Kelembe.

“The situation is really bad, we have to pay rent and buy food,” Kelembe said. “I asked the people of the municipality why we renew our permits if we cannot trade but they say they cannot do anything because the situation is beyond them.”

Another trader, Tambi Rubanguka, said he was beaten and his stall looted in February 2021. Since then he has not been able to return. “I tried once but got kicked out. We’re scared to go back. We paid for our permit. So it’s the City’s responsibility to protect us,” he said.

He said their business licenses only allowed them to work in designated places, so they were unable to legally sell their wares.

Smith Hartey Enabebholo, president of the Foreign National Traders, said like many other immigrant traders, he cannot buy food or pay rent. He’s already been served an eviction notice for not posting bail.

He said he started trading in 1999 at the workshop when it was still privately owned before the city took over. Enabebholo, who has South African nationality, asked why the city does not help those who operate within the law. “The municipality has its own law enforcement which is supposed to protect people who trade legally and have permits,” he said.

The Secretary General of the African Solidarity Network (ASONET), Daniel Byamungu Dunia, said he met with the Mayor of eThekwini and the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal over the attacks on immigrants. “They promised to intervene but nothing was done. We want people with permits to be allowed to resume trading,” Dunia said.

Themba Mkhize is a member of Concerned Informal Vendors, an organization representing South African traders. He said the problems started in 2015. Currently all traders in the shop are South Africans, whereas a year ago when more than 100 foreign nationals were occupying trading spaces, he said. declared. He accused city officials of selling spaces to immigrants.

When GroundUp requested comment from the Premier’s Office, we were referred to the City. When questions were sent to the city earlier this week, the city responded to GroundUp advising immigrant business owners to report incidents of bullying and harassment to police.

On Thursday, we asked KwaZulu-Natal Police Spokesman Captain Nqobile Gwala if SAPS was aware of any xenophobic attacks or cases related to the attack on foreign nationals. Gwala responded by asking GroundUp to provide him with specific cases instead and then forward our other questions to their general media email.

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