Efforts to improve Town Centre

Town Centre is to become a Special Rating Area (SRA) which means property owners would contribute additional rates to fund further services such as public safety, cleaning, maintenance of infrastructure and development of social and environmental services.

The proposal to make Town Centre a Special Rating Area has been under discussion for the past few weeks.

Alesia Bosman, director of the area-based services, reported that property owners are in the process of drawing up a business proposal for a SRA and due to the legal processes which must be undertaken, the process will take 18 months to be tabled at council.

When Ward 79 councillor, Solomon Philander, questioned why the SRA is going to council in 18 months, Ms Bosman said there were time frames which they worked in and because business stakeholders had not submitted their information on time last year, the process of establishing an SRA had been delayed.

Mr Philander responded that there were serious issues which needed addressing, specifically in the parking areas, and asked that the department look at interim measures to manage.

Among these measures, he suggested, could be employing the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) staff to assist with monitoring crime in these parking areas.

“The Town Centre is a Mayoral Programme. If there is no funding that means the department did not do proper planning as every year the fight is about funding for law enforcement officers,” he said.

Ivan Anthony, with the Mayoral Urban Regeneration Programme, said there was not enough funding for safety and security to employ additional staff for Town Centre.

To this Mr Philander responded: “It is unacceptable that funding has not been made available for funding over a 12-month period to employ law enforcement auxiliaries in Town Centre.”

He said it was critical to protect the more than 70 000 commuters who make their way through the Town Centre every day.

The Plainsman spoke to several owners and tenants about the proposal to make the Town Centre an SRA.

Dr Mahood Roomaney, former chairperson of the defunct Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre Merchant’s Association (MPTCMA), said: “We started in 2003 with the late Kenny Brinkhuis, former chairman of the United Hawkers’ Forum got together as the Town Centre needed a management team. They then gathered the MPTCMA, taxi forum, Hawkers United Forum (UHF), Mitchell’s Plain Hawkers’ Association, the City of Cape Town and many role-players working in the Town Centre. We drew up a constitution, the City acknowledged it and we made three priorities from it; the location of the hawkers from lanes to designated areas, he looked at the best way to manage the Town Centre and lastly trying to help the City coordinate provision of services.”

In 2008, they investigated and realised they couldn’t form the Central Improvement District (CID) for provision of services, towards management for security, health, marketing, to name a few.

In 2012 the City’s Area Coordinating Team (ACT) took over, having the “Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre Steering Committee became redundant” and ceased to be.

“SRA is a good idea, but the fact is SRA as set out by government’s ACT committee, will not generate enough income to satisfy the financial need of the Town Centre, which in the end will fail.

“They have taken too long, 16 years, to form a management entity. Things will not change until council officials do their work properly,” said Dr Roomaney.

Kulsum Baker, chairperson of the Mitchell’s Plain Hawkers’ Association and secretary of the United Hawkers’ Forum, said: “An SRA is long overdue. I do not know how this will impact the traders with the City looking to have management for the Town Centre. The City is not enforcing the by-laws effectively.

“Hopefully it will change because it is unfair that the Town Centre is still in this condition. I wish we could have what we used to have, the way Town Centre used to be. If it means SRA will improve for formal and informal businesses and bring back the many feet we had, then it will be good for the greater Town Centre. Hopefully with this we can bring down crime too.”

“My business lost R200 000 this year. Town Centre is deteriorating, there are illegal hawkers in our space, nothing gets done to these criminals roaming outside, it’s killing our business,” said Muhsin Bapoo, owner of the Mitchell’s Plain locksmith close to the taxi rank.

He added that he supported the establishment of an SRA and waswilling to contribute financially if there was a guarantee that illegal hawkers were dealt with and systems were put in place to increase the visibility and work of security guards in the area.

Amran Asif who owns three clothing, electronic and spice stores in Town Centre said: “There are so many criminals in this place. People don’t want to shop here anymore. They’d rather shop at Promenade. The female customers and seniors do not want to shop here either, they feel unsafe.”

He also highlighted the lack of police presence in the area.

“I agree on the SRA initiative. Businesses are going down because of criminals. We asked for Town Centre security but nothing happened, we’re still waiting for it.”

Rafiek Allie, who owns a pharmacy in the Town Centre, said: “The question is, will the special rating area be effective for business and people? The Town Centre is filthy dirty, it is becoming a health hazard for people to shop here.

“I agree to pay more for SRA but it must be effective. People need jobs too. When they don’t have a job, what’s the next thing you’re going to do to survive – steal. We need to break that cycle.”

Founder of the Mitchell’s Plain DSTV Festival, Rozario Brown, who has his office in the Town Centre, said he supported the establishment of an SRA.

“If things are more efficient with better security and better management, I am willing to pay more money for it. It is long overdue. We need social programmes to deal with the criminals, substance and drug addicts in the area.”