From township slang spaza (adjective) ‘camouflaged’, ‘dummy’ (see Ngwenya quotation 1989); ultimate origin unknown.
In full spaza shop:a small informal store in a township, often run from a private home. Also attributive.See also informal sector (informal sense 1).
In the past spazas, being illegal, were usually operated clandestinely.
1988Natal Mercury 22 Dec. 2The proliferation of ‘spaza’ or camouflage grocery shops in township homes..was evidence that more blacks were becoming self-employed...About 240 spaza stores were opening..around the country..every month.
1989K. Ngwenya inDrum Feb. 6Spaza is a [sic] township parlance for camouflage or dummy. The word describes the way traders were forced to operate underground because they usually broke all rules and regulations...The typical spaza today consists of a section of a private house that has been converted into a grocery store.
1989ADANo.7, 49This spaza sells printers’ paper overruns bought from a factory in Paarden Eiland and sold for 50c a roll...Many of the grocery store oriented spazas even have accurately copied Coke or Pepsi signs.
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