Shoprite in Khayelitsha Mall goes up in flames

The fire according to the Cape Town Fire and Rescue spokesperson was mainly confined to the warehouse section of the store. All photos by Lilita Gcwabe

A small business owner at the Khayelitsha Mall says that the fire that engulfed Shoprite stores on Tuesday was like a final nail in the coffin for small businesses at the mall.

A fire that started at Shoprite stores in the Khayelitsha Mall will have devastating consequences for consumers in the area, especially after the lockdown announced by the President as set to begin at midnight on Thursday. According to Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, the fire started at around 07:40 on Tuesday morning in the store warehouse and caused considerable damage. “The goods that were in the storage section of the shops were damaged and it also affected the deli and bakery section of the shop,” he said. The fire was contained by 11:00.

The cause of the fire according to the crew commander, Mark Bosch, will not be known until they complete their investigation on Wednesday morning. The report from the investigation will inform the time needed to get the store operational again.

While Elitsha was at the scene, an Eskom-branded car was allowed to cross the police barricade and this reporter a few minutes later was told that the Eskom officials were meeting with the Centre Manager.

One of the mall tenants, Luvuyo Mabhele, said that they had received letters from the centre manager about the testing of a “ring main unit”. The letter that Elitsha has seen states that there was going to be an electrical power shutdown in order to run compliance tests.

The letter sent to the tenants informing them about the shutdown of electricity due to the compliance testing of the Ring Main Unit.

“The lockdown as it was announced by the President was going to affect the business because we depend on the traffic of people going in and out of Shoprite and now the burning down of Shoprite as one of the main anchor tenants at the mall feels like it was the final nail on the coffin,” said Mabhele. His shop is close to Shoprite and sells electricity vouchers, airtime, devices for selling airtime and DSTV payments.

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“Our shop solely depends on people going into Shoprite stores and as a small business we had already thought about applying for Unemployment Insurance Fund as it was announced by the President,” Mabhele said.

The fire was contained at around 11:00. The closure of Shoprite will have a devastating impact on small businesses at the mall.

Ray Mclean, the Centre Manager, said that they have been informed by Shoprite’s head office not to comment but he did say that they are also not sure what caused the fire. “Eskom was meant to do a ring main unit compliance test and we are also waiting for the report on the cause of fire. Other than that we cannot comment any further,” said Mclean.

A shopsteward from the store who wanted to remain anonymous said that she thinks that the workers may be deployed to nearby branches and would not lose their jobs.

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