EXPIRED food stuffs were confiscated and employees who worked without permits and asylum documents arrested on the spot during a crack-down on unlicensed businesses in Polokwane, Limpopo last week.
The campaign, dubbed Operation Hlasela and led by Capricorn District Municipality (CDM) Executive Mayor John Mpe, took place in the Polokwane CBD, Seshego and Mankweng.
It targeted unlicensed businesses, shops that sell expired food stuffs as well as those that trade in imitations.
However, Mpe denied claims in some quarters that the crackdown was meant to target foreign owned shops on the basis of their nationalities to victimise them and perpetuate stereotypes. “We must make it clear that we are not targeting foreign owned shops on the basis of their nationalities in order to perpetuate any stereotype or victimisation of foreign nationals. We are going to attend to any store owned by anyone, both South Africans and non-South African citizens,” Mpe said.
“We are pleased that in our district there have not been any reports of unrests, violence or looting and we encourage our residents to not take law into their own hands and rather join us in this campaign and report such incidences to relevant authorities.”
Instead, Operation Hlasela was aimed at ridding the district of informal grocery businesses that sell expired foodstuffs to vulnerable sections of communities just because they were purportedly convenient and cheaper than those in chain stores, he added.
This came after similar raids were conducted in Gauteng two weeks ago following public outcry that expired food stuffs and fake goods were being sold to the poor and vulnerable communities across Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni. They included Soweto and Tembisa townships.
Mpe said that it was a multisectoral operation that included Polokwane Municipality, Home Affairs, SAPS, Department of Health, Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism; as well as Emergency Services Units.
“In cases where a shop owner or a worker is not in the Republic legally, Home Affairs immigration officials and SAPS will make arrests for contravening Immigration Act and take necessary steps. In cases where we find expired foodstuffs, such items will be removed and disposed of as waste and charges to be given to that shop owner,” he added.
During the four hour crackdown on Boom Street in Polokwane CBD, where three shops were raided, expired foodstuffs and imitation vinegar including meat were confiscated and the owners were charged with selling expired foodstuffs.
A number of the workers who did not have their work permits and asylum documents were arrested on the spot by police.
“The health and wellbeing of our people remains of primary concern to us and we are required by National Health Act to do inspection as part of our environmental health, to ensure that food that is manufactured or sold to consumers is safe and sound for consumption. This is therefore done to compliment the daily activities or inspections conducted by Environmental Health Practitioners in different areas and to ensure that an impact is made in dealing with the illegal sale of unsound foodstuffs to communities,” Mpe concluded.