Slapped down for selling coffee in traffic

2014-04-27 15:00

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A young company had a great idea - selling coffee in the traffic. But then the law stepped in. Moyagabo Maake reports.

Do you need your caffeine fix but are stuck in traffic? Sibu Vilakazi has a solution for you – or at least he had one.

Last year, the 24-year-old had the idea of selling coffee “on the go” along public roads.

He says On-Da-Go cost him about R80?000 to set up, cash the BCom graduate raised after selling his shares on the JSE and then splitting the cost with his parents.

His father is Netcare chairman Jerry Vilakazi, so Sibu is budding business royalty.

Staff members kitted out in red t-shirts and mobile dispensers in giant backpacks were dispatched on Grayston Drive in Sandton, Joburg.

“It was a big success,” says the entrepreneur. “We would make roughly R600 per morning selling solely on one road.”

But the Joburg metro police put a stop to the budding trade.

“In December, we were told that what we are doing is illegal. After this, we decided not to cause a scene and left, and stopped trading for the first three months of the year. Within this time, we were able to go through the relevant act and bylaws and came to realise that what we were doing was legal and regulated.”

Earlier this month, On-Da-Go returned to the streets but Vilakazi says a traffic cop asked them to leave without explaining which laws they were breaking.

“At this point, she [the cop] became very angry. She [said]: ‘This is my intersection, and you can’t sell here.’”

They left but returned the next day, bylaws in hand.

“Once again, she became very angry, not even reading them. She threatened us again and told us to leave or she’ll impound our tanks. Since then, we have been unable to sell and were harassed out of the business environment by those put in place to protect us.”

#Trending approached the Joburg metro municipality for clarity. Media relations executive Nthatisi Modingoane said our query “was too general”, and provided extracts from bylaws relating to informal traders.

The only law On-Da-Go might have broken relates to trading within 5m of an intersection. But Vilakazi says this was not likely.

“This, in simple terms, refers to stop streets, robots and T-junctions,” he says. “We do not sell anywhere close to 5m from the robots.

“Even those selling newspapers don’t. It would leave you very little time to even try to make a sale.”

The bylaws are clear: the municipal council would have to declare and mark an area where informal trade is restricted or banned.

“Where we were selling there was no sign,” Vilakazi insists.

But Modingoane said: “Selling coffee falls under the category of prepared food, therefore, a licence obtainable from the environmental health [department] is required.

“Coffee and other cooked food can be sold if a trader is in possession of a licence, and trading is not done on a freeway or on/off-ramp.”

Vilakazi argues he does not need a permit as these are for specific services and businesses, including the keeping of livestock and hair salons, not for caffeine distribution.

For now, On-Da-Go is “on da slow” as the law and hawkers continue to clash.

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