Foreign-owned stores closed in Cacadu for fear of arson

ON FIRE: A truck belonging to a hardware store owner in Cacadu was mysteriously set alight Picture: SUPPLIED

The police are investigating a case of malicious damage to property after a truck belonging to a hardware store owner was allegedly burnt in the early hours of Wednesday morning in Cacadu.

This followed a letter received by foreign store owners that came from the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) threatening to boycott their businesses if they continued to deliver goods for their customers.

“As Sanco, we would like you to immediately cooperate with the Cacadu Truck Association. We do not want you to deliver in our rural areas anymore. We give you 24 hours to respond. If not we are going to boycott your shops until you cooperate with the association,” reads the letter signed by Sanco member Nceba Roro.

The South African Pakistani Association Border Zone, Cacadu Trucking Primary Co-operative Limited and the Bakkie and Truck Association have been at loggerheads for almost a year over who should make deliver goods for customers of hardware stores.

The Cacadu co-operative and the Bakkie association demand that foreign business owners should not use their own transport to deliver goods for their customers, either free or at a low cost, but to rather encourage customers to use their vehicles and pay for the delivery.

This is not the first time a group of people allegedly vandalised property belonging to foreign store owners.

The Rep reported (“Store owners allege co-op vandalism” August 3 2018) that president of the Pakistani  association 
Ashraf Saeed had indicated a group of people had broken the windshield of a  bakkie 
and another vehicle seemed to have been stoned.

I went to open a case at the police station, but we are not aware of any arrests. These people demand that we give them business yet customers complain their prices are too high. Most of the people who buy at hardware stores are poor and live in the villages. Some of them are employed at the store. Customers have been lost due to this because they are scared to visit again considering the hooliganism that took place.”

Ward 4 councillor in Cacadu, Nomzi Tyhulu, said said on Tuesday night she received pictures of a burning truck that belonged to a store owner and rushed to the scene to find out what had happened.

“I phoned the chairman of Sanco to find out if he knew anything about the incident because I had seen a threatening letter from the organisation. He said he knew nothing about it because the organisation had only told its members and ordinary residents to boycott foreign-owned hardware stores, but not to act violently. This has resulted in all foreign-owned stores closing and my biggest worry is about locals who work at the stores who might lose their jobs because of this.”

Tyhulu said the incident was astonishing because a stakeholders’ forum had been formed, of which the Sanco chairman was a member, following last year’s violent incident.

“The forum was to allow people with issues to come forward so that ways to address problems would be discussed by all members. We did not get any complaints from anyone, hence this heinous act came as a shock to me.”

Border-Kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB) administrator Adre Bartis said the truck could not be saved as the fire brigade closest to the store had to come from Komani.

“There was a community meeting to discuss the recent incident and ways in which all the involved associations could work amicably together. The affected businesses are members of the chamber and this cannot continue, especially after police failed to make arrests for last year’s violent incident. We need to create an environment where people can work together because if the hardware stores close, many locals will lose their jobs. Most of the owners employ people from Cacadu and people from the rural areas need the money. The police need to act swiftly on this one and arrest whoever is responsible.”

Gurmit Singh who would speak on behalf of the affected store owner could not be reached by the time of going to print.

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