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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