Debate over Summer Greens spaza shops

This shop in Ploughman's Crescent has had its share of incidents with one stabbing earlier this year during a robbery.

Summer Greens stands divided over the spaza shops popping up in the area – some say they’re a cheap convenience in hard times, others feel they’re evidence of growing lawlessness in the area and want them gone.

Resident, Nozipho Thimla is in the camp that feels the shops are bad news for Summers Greens.

She says she is tired of turning a corner to find a new brightly-coloured shop has sprung up with boxes of goods lying in front of the shop.

“These shops attract a lot of unwanted characters in the area. You find people always loitering around and some of these shops don’t have well-lit outside lights and this causes a big security risk by just walking past,” she said.

It’s the security issue that Summer Greens Neighbourhood Watch chairman Reagan Croeser says he is concerned about.

“These guys are supposed to close at 9pm, latest, but you find some of them still open at 10pm. We used to go around to them telling them they should close, but they would complain that we were harassing them.

“In the past couple of months, there have been two incidents where one was stabbed. And at the end of last year, an Uber driver was shot and killed close to one of the shops (“Shot Uber driver left to die on the ground,” Tabletalk, September 20, 2017).”

Ward 4 councillor Wandisile Ngeyi said residents should speak out if they were unhappy with the shops and send him the addresses of those causing problems.

He said he understood that people were trying to make a living and feed their families, but they needed to do things by the book.

“We need to know if these people have proper documentation to open and operate a shop and if not, they should be dealt with accordingly,” he said.

According to long-time resident and former Summer Greens Residents’ Association member Tina Maneveld, there are 13 house shops in the area.

She has been leading a petition campaign since 2011 to close some of the unlicensed shops down.

“There was a tuck shop at 1 Hunters Green and one at 20 Station Road – we managed to help get those two closed.

“There are others in the area that we are not happy with, but the City needs to do its part in the matter,” she said.

But not everyone is unhappy with the shops. Mxolisi Tybosch has been living in Summer Greens before the house shops started appearing, and he is grateful to have them around.

“For me, it’s a matter of convenience. Most times, I come here (rather) than to OK because they are closer to me, and the prices are reasonable. And if you are short, there’s an understanding that you will bring back the money owed,” he said.

Themba Mqele said you won’t see that at the bigger, more established shops.

“With everything increasing nowadays, you never know how much things cost until you get to the shop. Can you imagine being R1 short at OK?

“You would have to go all the way back home just for that. I think these small shops play a vital role in our society,” he said.

Denis Kabongo has been running a house shop from number 92 Summer Greens Drive for two years. Before that, he ran a shop next door for seven years, but the previous owners of the house sold, and he said the new owners didn’t want a shop there.

“I then moved here, and, to be honest, I don’t have a permit for this location.

“I did in the last one. I applied for one before I even moved to this location, and I am still waiting,” he said.

Mr Kabongo said he provided a critical service for the community. It made no sense, he said, for someone living at the far end of Summer Greens to have to walk all the way to OK MiniMark to get R5 airtime, for instance, or a half a loaf of bread.

The Hadjidakis Group, a property investment and development company, owns the OK MiniMark in Summer Greens.

“Group director Elia Hadjidakis said it was sad to see Summer Greens falling into a state of lawlessness where normal municipal land-use regulations no longer seemed to apply.

“Most neighbourhoods would never accept this blatant and flippant abuse of residential housing regulations, with stores opening as they wish, many unlicensed, and trading from home, in an informal environment,” said Mr Hadjidakis.

The SAPS and the councillor were fighting and ongoing battle against the “lawlessness” created by the unlicensed house shops, he said.

The City did not respond to questions by the time this edition went to print.