Clean up your mess!

2014-06-06 00:00

THE days are numbered for the street traders who have colonised the corner of Church and Boshoff streets with their mountains of second-hand clothes. This as controls on the city’s informal economy are set to tighten — both to clean up the city and allow street traders to conduct business in a more orderly environment.

Yesterday, the Msunduzi executive committee (Exco) passed a draft informal economy policy, still to be formally adopted by full council.

However, the big question debated in Exco yesterday was that it was all very well to have a policy but how would it be enforced effectively.

Exco members spoke out against rampant and uncontrolled street trading that can be both harmful to the street traders themselves as well as to formal businesses.

Councillor Thulani Xulu pointed to the street traders who have taken over the corner of Church and Boshoff streets, saying not only were their clothes scattered all over the pavement, but that the traders have acted with impunity, erecting a tent over the street corner.

“We have been discussing this and asking why nothing was being done about the situation,” he said.

Fellow Exco member Eunice Majola said the challenge to the municipality was the lack of enforcement of bylaws.

“There is something wrong with our system,” she added.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi explained that the informal economy policy guides the process and to enforce controls council must use the policy to structure a set of by-laws to manage and monitor street trading.

Mayor Chris Ndlela welcomed the new policy, saying it would give the city streets a cleaner image and also help with the control and management of street trading.

“Let’s raise the bar as far as enforcement is concerned,” he said.

Deputy municipal manager for Economic Development Dr Ray Ngcobo said the provincial government had asked every municipality to adopt and implement a policy framework for their informal economy to promote economic development and job creation within the informal sector.

A draft policy was set out and different organisations, including the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Commerce (PCB) and the Msunduzi Informal Economy Chamber (MIEC), were asked to comment. Both organisations welcomed the controls and order that the policy would impose on the sector.

Pietermaritzburg was one of the first cities to establish an informal economy chamber in November 2012. Chairperson Patrick Mchunu has always advocated that his members were committed to keeping the city clean. His organisation has asked for changes to the existing by-laws, improvement in the facilities for informal traders, improved relations with formal businesses, security, cleanliness and a better working relationship with the municipality.

PCB CEO Melanie Veness welcomed the policy and made several suggestions on improving street trading in the city (see box). Veness said the informal economy was of critical importance in helping to grow a city’s economy and creating much-needed jobs.

Ngcobo said the challenge was formulating policy that would support the growth of the informal economy. The policy advocates the formation of an informal economy business unit that would be dedicated to both providing support and oversight over the city’s informal economy.

What the policy says

• An informal economy business unit must be established.

• There will be designated street trading sites and off street markets.

• Traders will be registered with the municipality and there will be a database of traders.

• The municipality will work with and support the Informal Economic Chamber.

• An information management system must be developed for the efficient and effective functioning of the informal business unit. This system will enable record-keeping for periodic inspections, health clearance certification, site inspections, rental tariffs and the management of complaints.

• Key to the operations of the traders will include lease agreements, monitoring, aesthetics of stands, safety, cleansing, storage and ablution facilities.

How you can make sure the informal traders play by the rules

• Until all the systems are set up, calls regarding the mess in the city generally or by formal and informal traders can be made to the call centre: 0800 001 868.

• Contact Witness Warriors on warriors@witness.co.za or call Nalini Naidoo at 033 355 1105.

The PCB on controlling street trading

CEO Melanie Veness commented as follows:

• In creating an enabling environment for the informal sector, one must be careful not to create a situation where the vulnerable are exploited by people using them as fronts.

• When setting up informal trade zones (for want of a better word), one must also be sensitive to the rights of established retailers in the immediate surrounds.

• Services offered by informal traders need to be appropriate for the area; at the moment there are “informal traders” doing panel beating and spray painting in the street and on the pavements in Boom Street, right outside formal panel beating shops. Cars parked on the road get overspray on them and there is no recourse. I mention this because panel beaters are particularly listed in the policy.

• In formalising the informal sector, the Msunduzi Municipality needs to be careful not to be party to issues of non-compliance. Many informal traders do not wish to be registered with anyone because they prefer not be compliant with SARS etc;

• The type of products traders are permitted to sell is important. She said she sees a lot of cheap imports on sale in town.

• Adequate trading facilities need to be provided so that there are no consequences to the immediate environment i.e. suitable waste removal (especially for food vendors) and adequate public amenities.

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