Traders fed up with crime, grime in Town Centre

Fifth Avenue Traders Association members, pictured from left, clockwise, are Ozeer Isaacs, chairperson Alouise Hoffman, Carmen Damonse, Johnathan Cyster, treasurer Rita Anne Cyster, Vincent Matsha and secretary Jasmine Page.

Town Centre Fifth Avenue traders have submitted a list of grievances to the City of Cape Town, complaining about the public toilet being closed and their lives, wares and customers’ being in danger.

They were about to take to the streets, when Major General Johan Brand, Khayelitsha police cluster commander, who over-
sees the Mitchell’s Plain police cluster, called them to a meeting two weeks ago.

A follow-up meeting was held on Tuesday June 5. They met in Mitchell’s Plain police station’s boardroom, where executive members of the association asked for counselling for traders who witnessed the murder of wheelchair-bound Abubakar Seddick Jumat, 21, from Eastridge; for the toilets to be opened; and more police and law enforcement visibility (“Disabled man shot six times”, Plainsman, May 9).

The incident happened opposite a well-known butchery in the Town Centre, on Friday May 4.

Association secretary Jasmine Page said they had had enough of the violence, theft and not feeling safe in their workplace.

Chairperson Alouise Hoffman said: “We are willing to work and to contribute to the safety and convenience of our customers.”

She said previously, they had taken charge of the public toilet, which was closed on the weekend, possibly their most busy time.

Ms Hoffman’s, brother Joseph Fillis, also known as “Papa Joe” is said to have been the first trader on the plot of land, bordered by Seventh Avenue, Fourth, First and Fifth avenues in the 1990s.

The informal trading organisation and the South African Women’s Informal Trader Association were deeply disturbed and saddened by what was happening, and called for immediate attention.

“Crime has become part of our daily living, we have a situation where people are being killed right in front of us. Muggings, robbery and theft from vehicles are a daily occurrence in the area,” they noted in their list of complaints.

Ms Hoffman said there were only a few police or law enforcement officers available to assist.

Suggesting solutions to the problem, the association wrote: “Our members shall be equipped with a security vest, whistle and use our phones as means of communication if the need arises.

“They have established their own security, linked up with the local community police forum (CPF) and set up a WhatsApp chat group, to alert each other to incidents.

The association has 100 affiliate members, 25 of whom have signed up as volunteers and wear green bibs, for easy identification.

The volunteers make citizen’s arrests, take suspects to the police station, encourage victims to lay charges and even accompany victims to the police station. Many, however, do not want to lay charges.

Ms Page said they also wanted to manage the ablution facilities, which they had previously done over weekends.

“The area in which we work is our responsibility.

“We can achieve all of this with the assistance of South African Police Services and law enforcement officials,” the association wrote in its memorandum.

Major General Brand said the association had a good strategy which was working well and that it should be rolled out to the rest of the Town Centre.

He said there were arrangements for witnesses of the murder to receive counselling and that there would be more police visibility.

The City did not respond to Plainsman’s request for comment by the time this edition went to print.