Return to Town Centre

Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre Improvement District (MPTCID) directors Shaheem Hendricks, Fairoz Osman, safety manager Zubeir Orrie and chairman Bradley Bordiss.

Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre landlords and business owners are putting their shoulders to the wheel to help return shoppers and national chain stores to the central business district (CBD).

Informal traders, hawkers, service providers and all stationed in the Town Centre had to restructure to protect their livelihoods.

In 2013 more than 4 million commuters per annum used the train service. This dropped to about 37 995 commuters at the end of 2020 and to zero with the national Covid-19 lockdown, which was enforced two years ago. They now have taxi and bus commuters at a fraction of the foot traffic.

Fairoz Osman, former second-generation owner of Campbell Hardware store, whose father Osman senior, opened a store in Polka Square more than 30 years ago, said there was just sand when they moved into the store.

He had asked his dad why the shop was the beach. “One of the first toys my dad bought for me in the Town Centre was a beach buggy, which I played with in the sand,” he said.

Mr Osman is now a director of the Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre Improvement District (MPTCID) and one of more than 150 landlords in the area, bordered by Fourth Avenue, Seventh Avenue, including the landlords inside the Station Plaza, Third Avenue and First Avenue.

The MPTCID is focussed on engaging the City of Cape Town and its various departments on service delivery for the Town Centre.

The CID is a specific geographical area, approved by the municipality as a special rates area (SRA), which are complementary top-up services, including safety and security, urban management and social development provided in addition to those rendered by the CID’s primary partners.

“We can’t do anything about cleansing or illegal traders but we can report them to the necessary authorities to ensure they are brought to book.

“We try to do everything within the law,” he said.

They also engage with all the law enforcement agencies and SAPS that operate in the Town Centre.

Mr Osman emphasised that before small businesses were enough to sustain the Town Centre but of late the bigger national retailers, which shoppers frequented at malls, were needed to lure them back to the more than 40-year-old trading institution.

In November 2019, the MPTCID appointed its service providers by public tender for the roll-out of its business and implementation plan.

Their first order of business was to have the area fenced in and they proposed that individual property owners adjacent to its installation pay for it.

The last section, from Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) down to Seventh Avenue, next to the City of Cape Town facilities was paid for and installed by the municipality, once the private sector had undertaken their fencing and gating.

MPTCID chairman Bradley Bordiss said that this had provided a much more secure environment.

Soon after the establishment of the CID, national health and beauty store Clicks and fashion outlet Mr Price returned.

“Another national fashion retailer has committed to moving to the Town Centre, after an absence of many years. The additional national fashion retailer will be opening by the end of June or during July 2022. In addition, the national tenant Power Fashion, has come to the Town Centre,” said Mr Bordiss.

He said that after Standard Bank, Absa Bank and First National Bank closed their branches in Town Centre, along with hundreds of other branches closed throughout South Africa, the Station Plaza then became the main banking hub of the Town Centre.

“All of the major banks have ATMs (automated teller machines) in the Station Plaza, which enjoys 24-hour security, and the Capitec Bank branch in the Town Centre is based within the Station Plaza,” he said.

Mr Bordiss said that many of the property owners in the Town Centre were small landlords, who have owned their properties for decades.

“This is the difference between the Town Centre and the big shopping malls.

“Town Centre boasts small landlords, small tenants and hawkers, in addition to big national tenants and one or two big landlords that operate in the Town Centre.

“Along with the bus terminus, taxi ranks, library, police station, hospitals, magistrate’s court and other municipal and government offices, it really is the Town Centre of Mitchell’s Plain.

“Hopefully, with effort and time, we can bring it back to a more vibrant and safe environment,” said Mr Bordiss.

The MPTCID discovered that secure parking in the district was necessary to welcome shoppers.

Business owners within the Station Plaza transformed a vacant plot of land, belonging to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) next to the train station, into a parking lot, it borders Portland and Hazeldene taxi rank. This too has been fenced in.

Mr Bordiss said since they have on-site night security robbery and vandalism attempts have been foiled.

He said even municipality cleaning contractors have returned to their night shifts feeling more safe.

Mr Bordiss said the Town Centre is a place where smaller traders could build their empires from and that shoppers could invest in their small businesses.

Zubeir Orrie, MPTCID head of safety, said that they have also improved relations between private security agencies, SAPS and Law Enforcement to improve visibility, monitor closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage and have real time reaction.

He elaborated that having the business district fenced in they could control who enters and exits.

“We can then prevent criminals from running through the business area,” he said.

They have also applied to the City for bollards to be removed in the lane between the Plaza and the Department of Labour building to increase secure parking.

Mitchell’s Plain police station commander Brigadier Cass Goolam has called on shoppers and commuters to be aware of their surroundings.

He said since the establishment of the CID there have been improvements.

Recently Brigadier Goolam had focused on establishing the owners of the structures against the fencing and in-and-around the CBD, which is bordered by Morgenster Road, AZ Berman, Fourth Avenue, outskirts of the the railway station and the bus terminus.

“There are no homeless people in Town Centre, only criminals,” he said.

He said the car guards, drug dealers and users, pick-pocketers and prostitutes were linked to criminal gangs.

His said his focus was started with those who took shelter on the police station’s doorstep where they would defecate and urinate.

Brigadier Goolam said that two children, aged 8 and 10, were found with stacks of money notes and drugs, who were linked to gangs.

“We know their names and who they work for,” he said.

He said that the community should not tolerate criminals using their public spaces or their goodwill to further crime.

An array of criminals who were arrested and had done some time in jail were on the streets, from other precincts, wanted for murder, attempted murder, robberies, drug dealing and gangsterism were under investigation.

Brigadier Goolam said they host bi-weekly meetings with all safety structures to improve security in the business district.