Clampdown on mushrooming spaza shops

ELM inspectors join crackdown on expired food and counterfeit goods.

REPORTS have surfaced on social media alleging foreign shop owners were selling expired food and counterfeit goods to unsuspecting customers in many townships across the country, including Emfuleni.

To investigate these claims and enforce by-laws, officers and inspectors from Emfuleni Local Municipality’s Health and Social Development and Public Safety Departments participated in massive law-enforcement raids on Wednesday, 29th August.

Over 320 officers from different law enforcement departments and agencies took part in the raids with a Joint Operations Center [JOC] controlling operations from the Palm Springs Mall, where shops were also raided.

The raids targeted tuck-shops, fast-food outlets, stalls and shops in townships and shopping centers in Evaton, Orange Farm and De Deur.

ELM inspectors and by-law officers were joined by officials from the Department of Labour, Home Affairs [Immigration Unit] and the South African Police Service to raid spaza shops in Evaton.

The operation comes after images and videos emerged on social media showing business people believed to be foreign spaza shop owners manufacturing their own products, including soft drinks.

Health inspectors from Emfuleni confiscated all expired goods from the stores and ordered shop owners to remove damaged products which were patched with tape from their shelves.

In some stores, shop owners confessed to using cats as means of pest control after their stores were infected with rats.

Fines were issued to some business owners who flouted building control rules, with many found to be sleeping in the shops where there was food to be sold to customers and card-board toilets built next to food in wholesale shops.

One wholesaler in Evaton was caught with massive stock of sweets and chips packed outside in the blazing heat on the parking lot just in front of his store.
He was ordered to place the goods inside the store and was subsequently issued with a fine.

Many fish and chips outlets were also found without certificates of acceptability for the food they are cooking and selling to their customers.
The raids were also carrying out an instruction sent from the National Department of Health to all Environmental Health Managers in provinces, district and local municipalities to embark on inspection blitzes to all food-handling facilities.

The department had noted with concern the food related videos that were circulating on social media about the alleged food production and doctoring in some food premises within the country.

During the raids, officials from Home Affairs’ Immigration Unit also arrested foreign nationals who were in the country illegally.

Police officers also discovered stolen goods on some of the business premises which were raided.

Emfuleni Local Municipality’s spokesman Stanley Gaba said the municipality would continue enforcing by-laws and participating in future planned law-enforcement raids.

“Our Environment Health Practitioners will continue working with other law enforcement departments and agencies to raise awareness about the importance of compliance of municipal by-laws,” he said.

Addressing law enforcers in the morning before the raids, Sedibeng Cluster Commander Major General Zodwa Molefe told police officers to cut down on crime but warned this must never mean breaking the law.

“Let’s go out there and be disciplined and proud of our work,” she said. Colonel Mncedisi Mabala from the SAPS Sedibeng Cluster said the raids were aimed at reducing crime, especially rapes, murders and robberies.

Officers from different law enforcement agencies seen during the parade ahead of “Operation Buya Mthetho”

By Thabiso Radebe and Wandisile Kunene

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