Despite government intervention, the Durban-based North Region Business Association says it is not optimistic about resolutions taken to address the issue of unregulated spaza shops and small businesses.
Last week the association demanded that shop owners who are foreign nationals shut down their businesses.
Association head Mlungisi Mncube said that while there had been a meeting on Tuesday evening with the premier's office, matters were still complex. He insisted that the association's motives were not xenophobic.
"The media and people looking from outside ignore all the dynamics. We are on the ground where it matters the most."
The North Region Business Association last week sent a letter to foreign nationals telling them to shut down their businesses by Thursday.
Mncube said among the group's concerns were working conditions and safety. He alleged that wealthy spaza shop owners in the KwaMashu, Inanda and Ntuzuma areas buy shipping containers, stuff them with up to four people and put them to work.
"Anything can happen to these people in containers. What if there is a fire? Where is the safety? The people are poor and hungry, most of the people take up offers."
'Where are we going to get customers?'
Mncube said at the heart of the issue was that too many businesses and spaza shops popped up in the same area.
"Eventually we all won't own businesses. In a way, someone has to close. As it is the situation is untenable. You will go on a street and see three shops one after another. Where are we going to get customers?"
Following the meeting, spokesperson for Premier Willis Mchunu, Thami Ngidi, said a resolution had been taken that unlicensed spaza shops and small businesses in KwaMashu, Inanda and Ntuzuma would have to register their businesses or face being shut down.
"Unlicensed businesses will now be closed. A process will start to register them properly. There is a process of regularising that will take place."
Ngidi concurred that there was a "mushrooming of too many spaza shops in one area".
"Too many clumps of these shops come up. The premier said if you don't regularise entry then you have too many people coming in fighting over space."
Ngidi said practically, if there were too many businesses in one place, none of the businesses would be sufficiently profitable.
He said a task team consisting of "all sides", including the Ethiopian and Somali communities, would be established to "iron out" all outstanding issues. There would be a report back meeting on May 24.
"The essence of the agreement is to register and regulate all operating businesses under the umbrella of the North Region Business Association."
Ngidi said that even locals who were operating outside the law would be shut down.