SAHRC should investigate Lindiwe Zulu's state-sponsored xenophobia - DA

Toby Chance says minister's comments on foreign national traders were outrageous

DA calls on SAHRC to investigate Lindiwe Zulu's state-sponsored xenophobia

2 February 2015

The DA will today lay a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) regarding the recent xenophobic comments made by the Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu. 

In arguably her most outrageous public comment since becoming a minister eight months ago, Zulu said that foreign business owners should share their business practices with locals if they wanted to live and trade here without fear of disturbance or violence. 

"Foreign business owners in SA's townships cannot expect to co-exist peacefully with local business owners unless they share their trade secrets" said Minister Zulu. "Foreigners need to understand that they are here as a courtesy and our priority is to the people of this country first and foremost. They cannot barricade themselves in and not share their practices with local business owners," Zulu added.

These comments were in response to the violent attacks in Soweto over the last two weeks, where residents looted shops owned predominantly by foreigners.

Not only are these comments highly irresponsible and misplaced, but they highlight her fundamental lack of understanding and knowledge regarding small businesses and entrepreneurship. Minister Zulu's comments do nothing more than fuel the wedge that already exists between locals and foreigners, which led to such violence. 

Our Constitution is clear on this matter - everyone has the right to freedom and security of person, which includes the right to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources.

The right to security of person is not a conditional right as Minister Zulu states. Her remarks imply a condonation of violence and criminality that is inconsistent with our Constitution.

While the state is under an obligation to protect and advance such rights, the actions and remarks by Minister Zulu do the very opposite, and must be investigated. 

It is understandable that the Minister needs a scapegoat - foreign business owners being the latest - as in the first eight months of existence, all that her department has achieved is to successfully hamper the growth of small businesses and entrepreneurs.

According to StatsSA, last year alone 2064 businesses were liquidated and shut down in South Africa, with compulsory liquidations on the rise, increasing 73% to 366 in 2014, compared to 211 in 2013.

In addition to this, the World Bank's ‘Doing Business' report for 2015 saw South Africa drop six places in the overall world ranking, from 37th to 43rd. In the ‘ease of starting a business' category, South Africa dropped from 55th to 61st place. 

The statistics tell the real story - the Department of Small Business Development is not supporting entrepreneurs.

In a desperate attempt to deflect responsibility, the Minister is now suggesting that those not from South Africa are the real reason why so many South Africans struggle to succeed in the business sector. This is shamefully opportunistic, and the DA condemns it in the strongest terms. 

The DA will not sit back and allow a representative of the government to make irresponsible remarks that threaten people's safety and security in order to cover up her own failures, and will do everything it possibly can to assist the SAHRC in its investigation into these xenophobic and violence inducing remarks. 

Statement issued by Toby Chance MP, DA Shadow Minister of Small Business Development, February 2 2015

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