A shopping complex in Harare, Khayelitsha was placed under siege by a mob of about 30 angry youth from the area who demanded jobs at the small businesses be given to local residents.
The youth, believed to have been led by local ANC Youth League organiser, Yanga Mjingwana, converged on the Hilltop shopping centre where Spar is the anchor tenant. During lunchtime they disrupted shoppers and forced the closure of Learn to Earn and the Moholo Lounge.
Following an altercation with the owners of both companies, the group went to the landlords, the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) offices at the complex, and demanded the keys to the two businesses and threatened to set the complex alight.
They then chased owners and staff out of their venues, locked the doors and warned that the businesses must remain closed.
When they confronted Spar management with their demands, the manager calmed them by proving that most of the staff lived in the immediate area.
Ward councillor Anele Gabuza said he had received a complaint that Thursday morning from “the youth” in Harare stating that unemployment in the area was increasing and yet small businesses were not employing local residents but importing staff from other townships.
Gabuza said the group of youth claimed any development in the area should benefit the people who live in the area and they had decided to shut down those businesses that were importing staff from elsewhere.
He said the youth also alleged Moholo Lounge sold drugs and alcohol from their premises.
Moholo Lounge owner, Brenda Skelenge, said alcohol is sold at her venue as that is the nature of her business but it is more of a restaurant than a shebeen.
“My place is not like a loud shebeen, the drinks that people are having is the kind of drink you would have at a restaurant,” said Skelenge.
She said she felt the councillor failed to protect her when he allowed her to be locked out of her premises. “I don’t only run a business here, I live here (upstairs), but my keys were taken away from me so I had to use a back door to enter my house that I pay rent for. I felt like I was breaking in.”
VPUU area coordinator Siyabulela Ngwenduna said he allowed the youth to lock her out, as if he had not, they “would’ve burnt the place down with her inside”.
Ngwenduna countered the youth’s demands that businesses should only be run and staffed by Harare residents.
“When we have an open vacancy for tenants, we usually use the local newspapers to advertise the space, and in the advert we always include that we prefer local residents. However, in most cases the locals do not apply. For instance we had an open space some time in July and I personally gave the application form to local leaders first, but we did not receive even one applicant from the area.”
A meeting between the youth and Skelenge was held in the Harare Community Hall on Friday morning, but this reporter was refused entry to the meeting and was threatened with violence.
After the meeting, Skelenge said the situation had been calmed and a further meeting involving her, the youth and VPUU officials had been scheduled.
She said it appeared that there were members of the youth group who had shifted their positions, as some of them had asked her on the side if it was possible that they could work for her.
Should Khayelitsha companies only employ people from Khayelitsha? Should the same rule be applied to other areas? Let us know what you think by writing to Lunga Guza at firstname.lastname@example.org.