Goods: Film on spaza shops’ role under lockdown

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Today we release a new mini-documentary, Goods, which explores the vital role ‘spaza shops’ played under South Africa’s covid-19 lockdown – especially in terms of access to basic goods and food security. 

This release is timely; the Gauteng Township Economic Development Draft Bill aims to prohibit the vast majority of non-citizens from running businesses in ‘designated townships’ in Gauteng. The exclusionary nature of this Draft Bill is of deep concern.

Watch the film here.

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A vital life-line under lockdown

Spaza shops – small grocery stores that stock food and household goods and are often run by non-South Africans – are dotted across the country, including the most remote villages and deep inside ‘informal settlements’. 

This is important, because under the Covid-19 national lockdown, spaza shops provided a vital life-line in terms of providing basic goods to South Africa’s communities. It means that many remote or difficult-to-access areas were assured of access to food during the pandemic, and long distances did not need to be covered to access food and other goods.

Abdullahi Ali Hassan, protagonist of Goods, reflects on this renewed appreciation for spaza shops, which ‘played an important role with regards to the response of food security under lockdown.’ This social importance is reflected in their economic impact, too; South Africa has an estimated annual revenues of R7 billion from “spaza shops”. Hassan points to the direct economic impact (such as employing people in the shop) to indirect impacts, too (such as buying from local suppliers).

Relief and protection

Originally, government relief packages for spaza shops during the Covid-19 national lockdown were denied to non-South Africans. Following advocacy efforts, this relief was opened to any registered spaza shop, regardless of nationality. As of September 2020, 4,626 Spazas or Small + Medium Enterprises had been supported by this fund.

As lockdown set in, some spaza shops were targeted and looted. In some cases, however, South African neighbours physically protected their spaza shops from attack. ‘To see communities come out and saying, let’s not harm our people, our brothers … is actually something that represents South Africa,’ reflects Hassan. ‘It goes back to the issue of Ubutntu. I am because you are.’

Media Enquiries

Lotte Manicom, Advocacy Communications Officer:

Abdullahi Ali Hassan, Co-founder + board-member, Group 50 Investment Trust:

Thanks to

Abdullahi Ali Hassan 

Camera + Edit: Pascale Neuschäfer (Cinematographer, Just Films)

B-Roll Film: Hafeez Floris 

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Press Statement: Asylum Corruption Report Launched

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Lawyers for Human Rights to Release Corruption Report in SA’s Asylum System

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On Tuesday, 15 September 2020, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), in collaboration with Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town and Corruption Watch, released its report Costly Protection: Corruption in South Africa’s Asylum System. The report tracks changes in corruption in the asylum system over the last five years, as well as instances of corruption purported to occur in and around the Refugee Reception Offices (RROs).

Prompted by clients’ continued reports of corruption and barriers to realising their refugee status, and ultimately not being able to access the RROs, with barriers to access including demands for bribes, LHR initiated the assessment underpinning this report in late 2019, using both quantitative and qualitative methods to assess the current state of affairs in respect of corruption at RROs in South Africa.

Costly Protection: Corruption in South Africa’s Asylum System is a follow up to the report published by LHR and the African Centre for Migration & Society in 2015, “Queue Here for Corruption”, which was a quantitative assessment of corruption at South Africa’s RROs at that time. Costly Protection also takes note of the 2016 report published by Corruption Watch, Asylum at a Price, which highlights how corruption impacts those seeking legal protection in South Africa.

The report release will be accompanied by a webinar launch event on Thursday, 17 September 2020 at 9h00 via the Zoom platform which will cover corruption in South Africa and its effect on the rule of law, as well as the background and findings of “Costly Protection: Corruption in South Africa’s Asylum System”.

This report and launch event are made possible by the generous support of the Social Justice Initiative.

Contact us

For more information, contact:

Lawyers for Human Rights: Sharon Ekambaram,

Corruption Watch: Phemelo Khaas,

Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town: Sally Gandar,

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