Tension at Town Centre hawkers meeting

Mischka Cassiem, secretary of Hawkers Against Crime, and Kulsum Baker, vice-chair of the Mitchell's Plain Hawkers'United Forum.

Mitchell’s Plain hawkers are at loggerheads with each other over developments in the Town Centre but what they all agree on is that it has become infested with crime and grime.

The Plainsman attended a general meeting called by Hawkers Against Crime (HAC) at Town Centre library hall on Thursday September 22. Sulaiman Petersen, chairperson of HAC, opened the meeting by answering a question from a hawker about whether those present were members of the crime-fighting body.

He said the forum did not have members, according to its constitution and that the meeting was open to all hawkers who had an interest in the Town Centre.

The second hawker to speak called for a vote of no confidence in HAC, which was seconded but Mr Petersen continued with the meeting, saying that they needed to share information with the hawkers regarding a meeting that was held at Mitchell’s Plain Sub-council chambers, in Lentegeur on Thursday September 15.

Kulsum Baker, chairperson of the Mitchell’s Plain Hawkers’ United Forum, who was also at the previous week’s meeting, challenged Mr Petersen, saying he did not speak up against crime in the Town Centre, at the sub-council chamber.

Mr Petersen said HAC had only been in existence for a year and did not have a mandate to speak on behalf of traders in the Town Centre.

He maintained that the report back meeting would deal with decisions that were already made relating to storage, enforcement of by-laws and crime-fighting operations.

The meeting on Thursday at the library ran amok, with hawkers walking out, insults and threats being bandied about and bits of information being shared.

The Plainsman asked sub-council manager Alesia Bosman and Solomon Philander, councillor for Ward 79,which included the Town Centre, for clarity on a few matters.

Ms Bosman said a storage facility was identified by the City of Cape Town on the northern terminal side.

Eddie Andrews, councillor for Ward 78 and chairperson of the Area Co-ordinating Team (ACT) committee, emphasised that the facility would be available for storage for 30 fresh produce traders only and that council official Richard Holdstock was to have submitted the names for these traders.

During the meeting at the library, HAC disputed the list of 30 names and said 15 names were missing.

The traders were not happy with the storage space as they wanted fridges, for which the City could not be held liable if anything wentwrong.

Mr Philander said nowhere in the city did the council provide storage for informal traders. The convenor of the ACT, Ivan Anthony; manager of the Mayoral Urban Regeneration Programme (MURP); council’s property management officials Richard Holdstock and Wilson Baartman; and Transport for Cape Town’s John Hendricks are to meet to draw up a lease agreement with the 30 traders as they will be responsible for the safety and care of their own produce and are to also to design the space to suit their needs.

These special-needs requests or scope of their storage space will be for their account. Once the 30 identified fresh-produce traders take ownership of their respective storage space, law enforcement will enforce the Informal Trading By-law for the traders who overnight or who are using more than the specified trading space.

Mr Philander said the MURP has set aside R8million for the safety and security of eight business nodes, namely Harare and Kuyasa interchange precinct; Bellville transport interchange precinct and Voortrekker Road corridor, Wesfleur business node (Atlantis), Athlone CBD and Gatesville, Ocean View, Macassar and Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre. Each node will receive its quota to recruit ten new people as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to enforce the by-laws.

Similarly SAPS, law enforcement, Metro police and traffic are due to have joint operations to ensure a safer Town Centre.

● In early 2012 mayor Patricia de Lille established MURP, to uplift areas that had experienced apartheid era under-investment. The particular focus was on improving safety, quality of life, and the socio-economic situation – with an emphasis on the public or shared environment.

The Town Centre upgrade has incorporated the following phases which have been completed at an approximate cost of R200 million – construction of taxi rank facilities and a new bus terminus; construction of informal trading market facilities; trading and public infrastructure within the old Town Centre area; a range of facilities or infrastructure for traders, including fish traders, canopies and trader kiosks; public space improvements and landscaping; new road infrastructure and signalised intersections; new public parking areas; the construction of public buildings including civic offices, community offices, boardrooms, ATMs and public toilets; construction of a traffic licensing centre; installation of CCTV cameras; and construction of an additional pedestrian bridge over the rail corridor.

The regeneration of the area is currently 90 percent complete, and will be finalised, with the following projects under consideration: the establishment of a city improvement district (CID) to coordinate the management and operations of the CBD; the construction of a road link from the Town Centre to the Promenade across Wespoort Drive (which is almost complete); further upgrading to the old Town Centre including more trading space; facilitation of private sector investment through the disposal of vacant commercial land parcels; facilitating development of the gateway site adjacent to the magistrate’s court; and the design and development of a business and small-scale industrial park and the development of False Bay College on the intersection of Wespoort and AZ Berman Drive.