South African fruit hawkers chase away Zimbabwean competitors

“I want to survive like them. They must leave me alone,” says fruit seller in Port Elizabeth

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Photo of traders fighting
A group of South African fruit sellers claim Zimbabwean hawkers in the area are stealing their customers by offering lower prices. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

Ever Chingobe, 33, sells fruit and vegetables on the corner of Russell Road and Govan Mbeki Avenue in Port Elizabeth.

She was one of about 30 Zimbabwean hawkers whose stalls were ransacked by a group of South Africans on Friday afternoon. The group, who also sell fruit in the area, claim to be losing customers to the Zimbabwean traders selling goods at lower prices.

“I want to survive like them. They must leave me alone,” Chingobe told GroundUp.

She said, “A group of women stormed my shop. They told me that whatever I sell should cost R15, instead of R10. I asked the women, would they go to Shoprite and force them to sell fruit at R15?”

Another hawker, Blessing Ziumbe, said, “They suddenly arrived and told us to go … There was no agreement about selling fruit at R15 … We used to sell pirated CDs and DVDs but after we were arrested and fined by the police, we then introduced fruit.”

Ziumbe said they were not given an opportunity to resolve the price dispute.

On Friday afternoon, hawkers were seen shouting insults at one another. One of the South African hawkers shouted, “Take your goods and leave. Don’t drag your feet. Pick them up now,”

He was shouting at a Zimbabwean woman kneeling on the ground as she wrapped her goods in a sheet.

South African hawker Maureen Skhwentu sells fruit and vegetables from a kiosk she rents from the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA). “We are aware that Zimbabwean hawkers also have families, children to look after – like us. But it is hard to make money that would feed me and my children and cover the R90 rent bill [for the kiosk] because of foreign people,” she said.

MBDA Operations Manager Mcebisi Ncalu said no permits had been issued. “It is just through arrogance, disrespect and disregard of law that these foreign illegal traders forced their way into the subway [area to sell],” said Ncalu.

The MBDA is contracted to keep the central city clean and to monitor and issue permits to hawkers.

Ncalu said that the “action by the mamas” on Friday had come about because law enforcement officers had not done their job enforcing the City’s laws.

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TOPICS:  Economy

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