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Sprouting spaza shops a concern

A newly opened spaza shop in Highbury was closed because of pressure from the community.

This came after the Highbury Ratepayers and Residents Association (Hirra) asked ward councillor Ricardo Saralina to meet with concerned residents next to Highbury Road (opposite the spaza shop) on Friday 2 August.

Edmund du Plooy, chairperson of Hirra, said ‘‘today they might be selling bread and milk, and tomorrow it’s drugs.” He said several questions needed to be asked to find out if the correct processes were followed and whether council granted approval.

Du Plooy and several of the residents expressed their concern with the location of the shop, which is situated close to the roadside on a corner of a thoroughfare. The potential pile-up of traffic, and the safety of pedestrians and people gathering in front of the shop, were mentioned.

With a supermarket on the corner of Nooiensfontein Drive and Highbury Road and a (legal) tuck shop about a 100m away, the question was also asked why there would be a need for another shop.

Du Plooy said he can respect that these shops are cheap and pensioners can buy from them, but it cannot be the only argument. He pleaded people need to see how it will affect the entire area. Some bylaws cover various aspects such as the height of walls and location. Du Plooy asked Saralina to establish whether the owner did comply.

Saralina said some laws state that the community must support the opening of a shop. According to residents present no one had been approached for comment.

Saralina said, “we must ask these questions before making accusations that he does not have a permit. Permits will come via the subcouncil and to me.” He said he knows the owner of the nearby tuck shop does have a permit.

The new spaza shop is about the size of a freestanding garage. Some were pondering whether the owner possibly got approval for such a structure to be built.

“It’s not even pleasing to the eye,” remarked Saralina. He was also concerned with it being on the corner of a busy road as “young people would gather at the shop.” 

A few residents asked Saralina whether he was aware of the other spaza shops that popped up in the area. He knew of some and asked residents to give him the addresses of others.

A woman said a shop opened about a month ago in the street where she lives. “People are always standing around at the shop – different elements, not from the area. 

“The road is always busy, so you don’t know who lives there and who doesn’t.” Saralina said Law Enforcement will have to come out and give the property owner a fine and close the shop.

Du Plooy said council must involve the community structures when approval is required as ‘‘individuals might see some benefit to themselves but not the bigger picture.”

The spaza shops draw people from other areas, said Du Plooy. “Why would someone come from far to buy milk here? No one would, but they would to come buy drugs.” 

According to Du Plooy word quickly spreads as to who sells what where, as ‘‘they (shops) have their own network.’’ He said people should consider how these shops can sustain low prices – “not by higher profits. They sell contraband to fund the low prices,’’ said Du Plooy.

One resident said fines will not help. The shops ‘‘invite social ills’’ and if there is no compliance it should be closed. “I would like to have a safe area for my child and I believe you also want that,” he said.

When the shopkeeper arrived Saralina suggested the group walk over with him to enquire whether the man has a permit to operate. Saralina explained some of the legal requirements and processes to the man upon which he acknowledged he does not have a trading permit. 

Du Plooy was quick to respond and said Saralina must get the Law Enforcement out to shut down the shop. The shopkeeper agreed to close the shop immediately after requests from the residents present.

Saralina said if spaza shops pop up everywhere it will eventually destroy the legal shops’ business. “It is clear the community don’t want this shop as there is no need for it. The Highbury Tuck Shop has a permit and it looks decent and proper, but where spaza shops are, things start looking untidy and messy.”

Saralina told TygerBurger yesterday (6 August) he could not confirm whether the structure was legal, as was alleged by the shopkeeper on Friday, but he said he ‘‘hope they did get permission from the neighbour to build right against the boundary wall.”

Saralina said as soon as everyone left on Friday the shop reopened. “I brought law enforcement and they closed the shop. They showed us they do not care what our community say or what our laws require. I find this unacceptable and I will not tolerate illegal house shops in my ward. They will have to do things according to the laws of our country otherwise I will ask Law Enforcement to impound their stock.”

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