South Africa Hesitates To Welcome Wal-Mart

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By Charlotte Young

Though some Americans may enjoy the “rollback prices” and “smiling yellow face” of Wal-Mart, South Africans are opposing plans that would bring the corporation into the country.

In a battle that has been taking place for months, South Africa’s Competition Tribunal postponed all anti-trust hearings today at the urge of the South African government. According to Bloomberg, all hearings will be delayed until May, much to the dismay of labor unions who believe a delay will hurt their cause.

After facing slow sales in the US, Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, offered a bid in September to buy 51 percent of Massmart Holdings Ltd, South Africa’s largest wholesaler for food and general goods, for 16.4 billion rands ($2.4 billion dollars). Labor unions are concerned that Wal-Mart will hurt jobs as well as local manufacturing.

Michael Bride, the deputy director for Global Strategies from the North American United Food and Commercial Workers International Union describes the effect of Wal-Mart as, “devastating…upon small businesses, suppliers, and communities.”

Bride has recently traveled to South Africa so that his organization can meet with the anti-trust authorities. He hopes to ensure that if there is to be a Wal-mart presence in the country, it “will promote economic development rather than destroy it.”

Massmart promises to uphold all present agreements with current employees. The company fell about two percent in Johannesburg trading after the announcement of the delay was made.

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