Mitchells Plain traders march to Civic Centre over intolerable conditions in town centre
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Cape Town - More than 50 informal traders from Mitchells Plain marched to the Civic Centre on Tuesday demanding attention and action from the mayor regarding the conditions and the criminality at the town centre.
The traders said what was happening at the centre was creating a problem for businesses and impacting severely on the well-being of society.
United Hawkers Forum (UHF) chairperson Kulsum Baker said drug trafficking and prostitution had become regular occurrences, and that was simply unacceptable and intolerable to the hawkers, and she claimed that the centre had been degraded.
Baker said in the absence of law enforcement officials executing their duties, the centre had reached a point of absolute chaos. “The City did two raids and cleaned up illegal trading in two years, of which no success was reached,” she said.
Baker said the festive season was rapidly approaching, and their businesses were struggling, claiming that the City had not shared or communicated any plans on how to control and regulate the informal trading by-law.
One of the organisers, Jasmine Harris, said because of the lack of physical law enforcement, illegal trading in prohibited areas had expanded grossly.
Mitchell’s Plain UHF secretary Shireen Rowland said drug peddling, the sale of counterfeit items, shoppers’ bags and grocery bags, cellphone grabbing, buying with firearms and power tools, prostitution, gangsterism, car theft, car and delivery truck break-ins, stabbings and fights were what informal, formal and regular users of town centre had to deal with daily.
Rowland said a strong presence of vulnerable, homeless individuals were visible in the centre, and that shoppers were apprehensive and often frustrated with the presence of the homeless people approaching them for handouts.
She said that part of the frustration was caused by the lack or total disregard for social distancing, wearing masks and sanitising, and that very little had been done to educate those vulnerable individuals.
SA Informal Traders Alliance (Saita) president Rosheda Muller said the impact of Covid-19 together with lack of law enforcement were leaving traders insecure in terms of confidence that they may trade unhindered.
Muller said although the City extended invitations for individuals to make arrangements on their arrears permit payments, individuals were faced with the fear of contracting the virus simultaneously because of lockdown levels. Traders were forced to use the financial resources accumulated to provide sustenance for their families at home.
She said a substantial number of traders were solely dependent on informal trading as the only source of income. “Many traders sold their own tools because they did not have money and some did not even come back.”
Urban Management Mayco member Grant Twigg said he accepted the memorandum from the informal traders and promised to respond to their complaints within 14 days.
Twigg also promised to set up a meeting with them together with officials from other City departments, saying the concerns raised cut across various departments.