Big plans for trading spaces

Traders in Fourth Avenue, Town Centre.
Mitchell’s Plain women informal traders are proud of their milestone achievement of being granted managing rights of their business spaces in Fourth Avenue in the Town Centre. 

South African Women’s Informal Traders’ Association (SAWITA) chairwoman, Alouise Hoffman, formerly from Westridge who now lives in Ottery, said they have big plans for their trading spaces. 

For the past decade the group of women had maintained their market, keeping it clean and safe, by collecting money among themselves to employ “security” and cleaning services. The non-government organisation’s efforts were recognised and acknowledged during the monthly Wolfgat Sub-council meeting on Thursday July 23. 

Ms Hoffman said they want to empower their members and their communities by “taking them to the next level”. 

She said more than 20 years ago their market was dominated by men and that they, as women, did not stand a chance. They had to learn on the job about hardware, electrical and plumbing parts. “We stood our ground and eventually were granted permission to let women come into the market. 

“As women we have opened the gateway for many other women to pen their stalls with the same commodities as the men, who were already trading there,” she said. 

Ms Hoffman said they faced various challenges, including inequality, patriarchy, disrespect, harassment and intimidation, but never gave up. “We have worked very hard to achieve our milestone of the City of Cape Town awarding us the management of our trading areas. “We salute each and every one who played a critical role in our achievement,” she said. 

SAWITA secretary Jasmine Page, who had been trading on the avenue for more than 20 years, said they took ownership of their business space. “We worked very hard for this,” she said. 

Ms Page also acknowledged the role of Sharmiel Evans, the City’s district area co-ordinator, Sisa Ngondo, area economic development official and Solomon Philander, Wolfgat Sub-council chairman and councillor for Ward 79, which includes the Mitchell’s Plain central business district and the Town Centre,  for their support, guidance and advice. 

“It wasn’t always easy but they never lost faith and hope in us as an organisation,” she said. 

The market management process will be implemented over a two-step-phase over three years, concluded between the City and SAWITA. First the City had to conclude on SAWITA’s governance and recognition, prepare a memorandum of agreement, see to budgeting, traders and leadership training and the safety and administration infrastructure upgrades. 

Then SAWITA will be given responsibility of processing trading permits, budget management and appoint a market manager. The women will have oversight responsibility for 92 active traders. 

The City must make budget provision for capital and operational expenses, primary advisory services and further infrastructure upgrades. 

Councillors agreed that the group of women informal traders,operate and manage their trading area.

Mr Ngondo said the trading plan (Gazette Notice 6666, October 16 2009) consists of 1 107 trading bays, six markets, 52 kiosks and a fish market. Trader products include fresh produce, clothing, food, hair and beauty products. 

“Petty crimes invite hardened criminals and substance abuse and other social ills, rending the trading space unsafe,” he said.

He explained the informal trading challenges included by-law infringement, waste management and safety. “There was poor enforcement of waste management and that dirt and grime attracted criminal elements and deteriorated the trading environment,” he said. 

Mr Ngondo said the Town Centre had seven compliance officers who were introduced to sub-council, traders and other City department officials, who were given a basic understanding of the informal trading by-law; of law enforcement, permit payments and by-laws; reporting by-law infringements and assisting the area directorate with permits during Covid-19 lockdown regulations. 

He said the Town Centre remained one of the biggest trading markets in Cape Town; that it was a major central public transport interchange in Area South with train, bus and taxi commuters. About 70 000 commuters use public transport daily in and around the Mitchell’s Plain CBD. 

“It is still one of the most famous shopping malls for many people in broader Mitchell’s Plain with value for many shops and trading commodities,” he said. 

A central improvement district (CID) has been established, and there are plans to set up cameras, and the Town Centre is part of the Mayoral Urban Regeneration Programme (MURP).