The Gauteng Township Economic Development Bill is about supporting entrepreneurs who live in the townships, so that they can build better businesses in critical productive sectors of the economy.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura on Wednesday told the Joint Parliament Sitting Debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Economic Reconstruction Recovery Plan that his province needed to support local businesses in specific sectors of the country’s economy.
“Foreign-owned businesses should participate on our terms…,” Makhura said. Most spaza shops in Gauteng townships are owned by foreigners and at times frustrated locals loots the shops when they are protesting.
The Gauteng Premier told the meeting that the bill aimed to achieve an explicit goal of expanding existing businesses in townships.
The bill would also enable the creation of new business activity to drive mass-scale employment and self-employment of deprived communities in the province.
“Our new act is designed to explicitly reverse the apartheid-era planning through a range of changes to regulations, combined with specific policies and programmes,” Makhura said.
He added that the provincial government and municipalities would be adapting by-laws and regulations governing business registration in townships, so that the 90% of township-based businesses that operated outside of the formal business legal framework could be registered, compliant, fundable and insurable.
Also, a legal framework would be introduced to ensure that big retail shops and malls that were township-based, partner with local township businesses.
This would include sourcing products and services from local producers, service providers and manufacturers in townships.
Part of the proposed legislation was to turn taxi ranks into micro CBDs, and the taxi economy would also be supported to scale up value chains and industries.
While the bill had been welcomed by many, not every Gauteng resident believed the proposed legislation was a ticket to greater economic inclusion.
Thulani Nkosi, who runs Zulu’s Upholstery in Sebokeng in the Vaal, was one such person.
Nkosi had been running his business in the area since 2006 and employed three people.
“I have never heard of the Bill, and I don’t think it’ll change much,” he said.
“A few years ago, the Gauteng government approached many businesses in this township, and I was one of them. We were asked to obtain certificates of compliance for our businesses because they wanted to sponsor our businesses and move us to a property they claimed to have provided for us.”
However, this never materialised.
He said that if the government wanted to help small businesses like his, it had to put its money where its mouth was.
“It’s easy for them to say that they want to help us, but their actions told a different story,” he said.
“If they want to move my business to another location, and I do not make the same profit that I am making in my current location, then I do not see a
need to move my business at all.”
Nkosi said that some of the challenges he faced was customers not willing to pay.
“A customer would leave a couch for upholstering and promise to pay, but they end up not paying,” he said.
Godfrey Machema and his co-seller, Triniole Msamo, have a different opinion.
The pair sell metal buckets, metal tins, metal dishes, indoor and outdoor brooms, mops, feather dusters and rubber rakes from the back of their bicycles.
They cycle around Sebokeng trying to make a living.
They also have not heard of the Bill, but they believed that if it was passed, they would greatly benefit from the government’s assistance.
Machema said that except for the rubber rakes and the outdoor brooms, they manufactured and put together most of their merchandise.
“It’s very difficult selling our merchandise in the townships because people are not willing to pay in cash,” he said.
“They want to take items on credit, and sometimes they don’t pay.”
Msamo said that it would be easier to make profits if they were placed in an area reserved for sellers of their kind.
“I believe that if the government would take us and put us in one place, where customers would be compelled to pay in cash, this would increase our profits. This would also make it easier for government itself to provide us with contracts where we could supply public places like schools, hospitals and municipal offices in the township with brooms, mops, feather dusters and rubber rakes,” he said. “In that manner, the government would then pay us a certain amount of money so that we can mass-produce the items.”