Town Centre hawkers have lashed out at “pirate” traders, whom they accuse of robbing them of their livelihood by undercutting prices and trading illegally.
Mitchell’s Plain United Hawkers’ Forum (MPUHF), an umbrella body for the Mitchell’s Plain Hawkers’ Association, Town Centre Hawkers’ Association, Mitchell’s Plain Stall Holders’ Association, Progressive Hawkers’ and Traders’ Association and Plain Business Association, which was formed in 1995, threatened to stop paying the City of Cape Town their monthly trading bay rent until they did something about the illegal traders.
On Wednesday November 16, they met at Mitchell’s Plain police station’s boardroom to discuss safety and security and storage of their goods.
Kulsum Baker, vice-chairperson of the forum, said she was shocked to see the fruit and vegetable traders being exploited in the Town Centre by “pirate” traders.
“Our traders are dying and must do something to get the City’s attention,” she said.
Ms Baker said harsher steps, other than writing a letter to the City as suggested by forum chairperson Kenny Brinkhuis, had to be taken.
“We have worked hard to get the Town Centre the way it is today. The City is not taking us seriously because we are too passionate,” she said.
Ms Baker said legal traders have been served notices regarding their non-payment but nothing had been done to these illegal traders.
Similarly, trader Clive Fortune asked what law enforcement officers were doing in Town Centre, and accused the City of pumping resources into ensuring safety and security in “white areas”.
“We need to get up and face them – force them to do what we need them to do,” he said.
In response to a Plainsman enquiry sent to the City, Eddie Andrews, mayoral committee member for tourism, events and economic development, said of the 1 107 trading bays in the centre, only 450 of them were being leased.
He said the City is amending this trading plan, to withdraw certain trading sites.
“This is due to the implementation of the MyCiTi bus station and some reconfiguration work through the CBD. New trading areas are also being implemented at Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre (CHC) precinct and the southern terminal,” he said.
Mr Andrews said the City of Cape Town followed standard procedure to revoke trading permits in the event of non-payment, which would be done in accordance with relevant City by-laws and policies.
JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, said there was a permanent deployment of officers in Town Centre. “Illegal traders are fined and their wares impounded,” he added.
Mr Smith said integrated operations focusing on all by-law and crime and grime transgressions in the Town Centre were conducted every week, with local law enforcement officers being supported by the Informal Trading Unit and Metro police.
“Concerned residents should also make sure to report illegal traders to Law Enforcement so this can be addressed,” he said.
On the issue of storage, Mr Andrews said Solomon Philander, the councillor for Ward 79 (which includes Town Centre), traders and other officials have located a site to accommodate the wares of informal traders. “However, to maximise the potential income during peak period for traders, relocation will only be considered once the MOU (memorandum of understanding) is finalised which would be earliest in the new calendar year,” he said.
The forum appointed Shireen Rowland Hendricks, from Mitchell’s Plain Hawkers’ Association, to oversee these negotiations and keep the MPUHF informed.
Ms Rowland Hendricks gave the traders an overview of three potential sites and said that storage space could cost between R300 and R500 a month.
She cited an example of traders paying someone R20 to R30 a night to watch their stall.
Ms Rowland Hendricks said the City had set aside R200 000 which would be used to clear the space under a bridge at the northern terminal side and that funds would also be used to access a possible second storey space.
Another expense would be security and securing the storage space.
Also on the list of the traders’ complaints was that despite them being registered, some of their names had been removed from the database and marked as illegal traders. This resulted in law enforcement officials targeting them during their clampdown on illegal traders.
Responding to this, Mr Andrews said during 2009 the City formulated an informal trader database, as part of the allocation process and the trader relocation plan for Town Centre. He said the City was not aware of any names which had been removed from this database.
In 2010, the City established a waiting list process to give those traders who missed the first registration period the opportunity to be included on the database.
“The City has used both the database and the waiting list to allocate trading sites as per the trading plan for Town Centre,” he said.
The traders complained to the Plainsman that only one block of toilets was operational in Town Centre and that one of the cubicle doors had been removed and that one of the toilets was broken.
Transport for Cape Town (TCT), the City’s transport authority, manages these ablution facilities, except those in Melody Square , which are managed by City’s Sport, Recreation and Amenities Department.
Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for TCT, said the five blocks of toilets managed by TCT were all open, operational and functional. He noted that TCT was attending to the cubicle in the men’s toilet at the northern terminal which was missing a door.
He said due to the high volume of users every day, the infrastructure was under serious strain.
“Maintenance and repairs are required on a continual basis. The infrastructure is also under pressure due to wilful vandalism and the destruction of property within the ablution facilities,” he said.
“We are trying our best to keep the facilities neat and functional, but those who are making use of the ablution facilities must please work with us in preserving the infrastructure,” said Mr Herron.
Anda Ntsodo, mayoral committee member for community services, said the Melody Square block had been repeatedly vandalised.
Two weeks ago the Sport, Recreation and Amenities Department repaired the electrical fittings and fixtures but it was vandalised again.
The department will have to restore the plumbing and should have the block operational by Saturday December 3, he said, adding that once repaired, the City would monitor and record vandalism of this block to plan the way forward.
“As always, we call upon users of this facility to be our eyes and ears on the ground and please immediately report acts of vandalism to the City’s Law Enforcement Department on the number 0800 225 669, or to the South African Police Service,” he said.
The Mitchell’s Plain United Hawkers Forum appointed Town Centre Hawkers’ Association (TCHA), under the leadership off Ms Baker and Jasmine Harris to oversee safety and security in Town Centre.
This comes after the Hawkers Against Crime (HAC) sub-structure, which the forum initiated about a year ago, was dismantled.
The forum said HAC had put them in disrepute with the City and had tried to replace the forum.
Mr Brinkhuis said complaints had been sent to the City slandering and blackening the name of MPUHF. A motion was tabled – and subsequently passed – to have HAC abolished.
Mr Brinkhuis said TCHA will be the forum’s safety and security structure and that money collected by HAC would be returned to the forum and used to further secure the centre.
Ms Harris told the meeting that during a “joints” meeting with the South African Police Service (SAPS), Mitchell’s Plain neighbourhood watch, in conjunction with Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum (CPF) it was reported that there was a plan to secure the Town Centre.
Ewald Botha, spokesperson for Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, said the department was busy with neighbourhood watch (NHW) accreditation.
He said NHWs were required to apply for formal accreditation, in line with the Western Cape Community Safety Act, and supporting regulations, in order to apply for training and equipment.
Mr Botha said the accreditation process involved providing documentation demonstrating that the neighbourhood watch, was a well-organised, capable and accountable structure, operating in a clearly-demarcated area, which enjoyed the active support of both its local SAPS station, and the local CPF.
Mr Botha said if these structures did not enjoy a good relationship, the neighbourhood watch would be required to explain why this was so.
Once the neighbourhood watch structure was accredited they would have to complete the training request form and are
encouraged to enlist the membership of residents with specific skills, including First Aid, medical, management, financial, communications and mentoring.