Traders fed-up with fence

Informal trader Nicolette Barnes shows how they have covered a manhole with a board to prevent shoppers from getting hurt.

Lentegeur informal traders are questioning the wisdom of the City of Cape Town’s attempts to curb the spread of Covid-19 by fencing them in.

About a month ago the City’s transport directorate erected temporary fences at public transport interchanges (PTIs) across the metropole to regulate access so that only commuters who are wearing masks can enter the facilities.

But trader Rasheed Abbas has described the result as “Alcatraz Prison”.

He said he felt caged in and that there were advantages and disadvantages to having the informal trading space “cordoned off”.

“But why did the City only come now (with the fence)? It wasn’t here when we needed it (to keep criminals at bay),” he said.

Mr Abbas said they had wanted the business area secured from thieves and criminals using it as a thoroughfare when they escape a shooting.

He said the fence prevented physical distancing because it confined shoppers and traders to a specific space.

“On the other hand, customers have been tripped up by the feet or the hinges holding the fence in place,” he said.

“I think it is to keep us caged in,” he said.

Mr Abbas said his research showed that diseases can spread when the infected person touches a surface and the virus can spread along it.

“Here anyone can touch the fence, even by accident,” he said.

Another trader, Zulpha Salie, asked what they must do in the case of shootings as there are only two entry and exit points on either side of the 60 cordoned off trading bays on Melkbos Road and the Lentegeur train station line.

She said the City should have someone stationed at the entry points, checking whether passers-by have masks on and sanitising their hands.

She said these access points were too narrow for them to pull their trolleys through when moving their goods in and out of the trading area.

Ms Salie said they were each given bottles of sanitiser but asked who was going to force shoppers to keep their hands clean.

Her trading neighbour Shahieda Fleurs criticised the City for being worried about the spread of the coronavirus but not caring if they got sick using the “disgusting filthy portable toilets” for almost two years.

She walks across the train station to relieve herself at a relative’s house.

“We are on medication and we need access to clean toilets,” she said.

There is a completed bricked ablution block but it is kept locked.

Xaviar Cyster, chairman of Lentegeur Informal Traders’ Association, said the fence served no purpose and that it had been erected before the City explained to them its purpose.

Xaviar Cyster, chairman of Lentegeur Informal Traders’ Association, with his granddaughter Khloë Nell, 5.

Mr Cyster said the City “always” did things without consulting the traders, who knew the area and interacted frequently with shoppers and commuters.

He said they had complained for months about the holes in the walkways but their complaints had fallen on deaf ears.

Mr Cyster said adults and senior citizens were losing their footing on the uneven paving and broken drain covers were covered with boards by the traders.

Other public transport interchange facilities being fenced include Bellville, Blackheath, Claremont, Durbanville, Elsies River, Kuils River, Nolungile Site C, Nomzamo, Nonkqubela Site B, Nyanga Junction, Mfuleni (old rank), Mfuleni (new rank), Parow, Philippi and Somerset West.

Felicity Purchase, mayoral committee member for transport, said the Covid-19 pandemic had challenged them and that everyone had had to adapt their behaviour for the sake of their safety and those around them.

She said thousands of Capetonians relied on minibus-taxis to get around – be it for work, medical reasons or to run errands.

Ms Purchase said the fencing helped manage access to the facilities while increasing the safety of commuters and ensured that social distancing was maintained, especially during peak hours.

“In addition to the taps inside the ablution facilities, we have made hand sanitisers available at all facilities where users can sanitise their hands,” she said.

The City has also issued megaphones at the 30 biggest sites and on-site security were using these daily to make commuters aware of physical distancing and to wear their masks.

“We have put all of these measures in place to help make the commuters’ journey as safe as possible, however, personal safety rests with each and every one of us. Thus, I call on all commuters to be vigilant, especially as the festive season is upon us, and to take the necessary precautions before they leave home. Together, we can beat the pandemic,” she said.

Ms Purchase said the fences were temporary and could be moved at short notice, especially in an emergency situation.

She said the placement of the fences took into account the normal movement of commuters and pedestrian gates were placed accordingly, to limit any possible impact and not to impede pedestrian or vehicular flow.

• By Thursday December 10 the Western Cape Government Health Klipfontein and Mitchell’s Plain sub-districts recorded a 53 % increase in new Covid-19 infections since the week before.

They report that Gugulethu, Tafelsig and Lentegeur are high risk areas as it has seen the highest number of new active cases in the past seven days.

Eugene Engle, contact tracing team member for the substructure, said people were becoming resistant to adhering to isolating if they were sick.

He said it was a major concern if they were to reduce the infection rate in these high risk areas.

“We urge our communities to adhere to the Covid-19 preventative measures such as wearing a mask and avoiding crowds and to stay home if infected, awaiting results or if you are a close contact,” he said.

At the end of last month Mitchell’s Plain, including Tafelsig, Lentegeur, Portland and neighbouring Philippi, had 336 active cases and two weeks later 514 active cases.

Together with the Klipfontein sub-district, 31 new Covid-19 related deaths were recorded over the past week.

Further local surveillance by the team indicates that gatherings at social events, going to shopping centres while not adhering to protective measures such as wearing masks and keeping a distance had led to quite a few cases testing positive.

Sub-district spokeswoman Monique Johnstone said: “We call on the citizens of each of these sub-districts and as a collective to do their part so we can bring the situation under control again. We all have a role to play through our own actions.

“Our behaviour will be influenced once we acknowledge and accept that the virus is not gone but will be with us over the holidays and beyond.”