Police raid spazas for fake goods
While foreign nationals had their spaza shops looted in Soweto this week, the Ekurhuleni municipality moved swiftly to address the problem of expired and counterfeit goods by raiding spaza shops.
Three people were left dead in Soweto following the chaos that broke out in White City when locals went on a rampage after accusing spazas of selling expired food.
In and around Ekurhuleni townships – Tembisa, Thokoza, Reiger Park and Ramaphosa informal settlement, among other areas – police and Ekurhuleni metro officials confiscated rotten fish, soggy biscuits sold to children and illicit cigarettes without warnings or labels during the raids, which started on Tuesday.
Other confiscated items included expired sweets and rotten meat.
Authorities were also shocked to find that food was stored next to the area where the shop owners slept and used toilets.
By Friday, fines were imposed on spaza shop owners for selling expired and counterfeit goods and 23 shop owners were arrested in Ekurhuleni alone.
Leading raids in Ekurhuleni was Mayor Mzwandile Masina, who told City Press that a decision had been taken to elevate complaints made by residents about expired and counterfeit goods to a political level in anticipation of possible unrest.
“We’ve been receiving a number of complaints as city council from our communities, saying that we need to intervene. They have been complaining that children get sick after eating stuff from these shops. We then had to quickly build our health capacity and start a programme in order to prevent the community from taking the law into their own hands,” said Masina.
He said the raids were carried out to avoid violence.
“If the community feels government is not moving or is not doing anything, [members] will obviously take the law into their own hands. And then it leads to violence, looting and xenophobic things that must be discouraged. We don’t want that situation where we experience xenophobia again.
“We want to make sure that we isolate those who are doing genuine business from those who want to cause problems in communities. It can’t be that we have entrepreneurs – regardless of where they come from – that sell products that have no labels and expiry dates going back as far as early as 2014. That affects the health and wellbeing of our people.”
Masina said he was shocked to find packets of cigarettes that normally cost somewhere between R35 and R40 selling for R10.
He said there was a need to investigate wholesale suppliers and to check what kind of business they were running as well.
Masina said they were concerned about spaza shop owners who manufactured goods in their backyards.
“We confiscated some of their machinery. We are going to take them for testing and see to what extent our people are exposed. Those things have no SA Bureau of Standards approval.”
The metro was set to intensify the raids in the coming weeks and would increase its health inspectors from 112 to 300.
Masina urged residents to desist from violently attacking foreign shop owners, pointing out that there were South African citizens living in the diaspora.
He also urged all political leaders to act on complaints raised by communities.
In Soweto, children could be seen running out of a shop in White City carrying packets of sugar and mealiemeal while their elders cheered and looted a fridge and other furniture.
Police could also be seen at the Crossroads shopping complex in Soweto assisting shop owners in packing their belongings into a truck.
In Northern Cape, six suspects were reportedly arrested for selling counterfeit goods in July, according to information received from the National Consumer Commission (NCC) at the time.
Department of health spokesperson Popo Maja said provinces and municipalities have been instructed to investigate allegations made on social media relating to expired goods and counterfeit products being sold in their respective jurisdictions.
NCC spokesperson Trevor Hattingh said in July that the commission was engaging with other relevant authorities to establish facts surrounding the issue of counterfeit products. “As soon as we have sufficient information we will be able to, as a collective, devise and employ appropriate measures to curb this practice,” he said.
Companies and Intellectual Property Commission spokesperson Tshiamo Zebediela also said at the time that the country, like the rest of the world, was experiencing high volumes of counterfeit goods sales.
“In the past the focus was on luxury goods such as top-end handbags, clothing items and apparel. This has changed dramatically and we have seen an increase in the selling and manufacturing of fake goods locally. We have seen an increase in spices, especially curries, yeast and sanitary products. Shoe polish has also been targeted,” Zebediela said.
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