City traders ‘evicted at gunpoint’

2008-09-30 00:00

Informal street traders in the CBD are on the warpath once again, accusing the Msunduzi Municipality’s security officials of ill-treating them.

The traders told The Witness yesterday they have endured many acts of harassment and intimidation by the security division staff over the years and recently the acts have become more severe.

In June this year, city informal traders marched to the city hall and handed a memorandum to Msunduzi Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo, asking to be treated humanely by the security staff, whom, they allege, confiscate their goods and break their wares.

They also called for a review of the by-laws to enable them to trade.

Hlatshwayo said at the time that she would speak to the security staff and that the economic development and growth committee was dealing with the issues raised.

However, the traders are complaining this time that the security staff pointed guns at them in their latest confiscation of their goods.

Chairman of the informal traders’ committee Zolile Nondzanga said he has traded in the city’s streets for over 15 years and has recently had his goods forcefully taken away from him.

He said the municipal staff did so because he does not have a trading permit.

“I applied for my trading permit in 1996 and until today [yesterday] it has not been approved. I feed and take care of my family through street trading and I have been doing this for many years,” said Nondzanga.

He said that permits are given to certain people, including foreign nationals, and that the foreigners are rarely affected by the raids.

Another street trader, Makhosonke Zuma, who has been trading for 10 years, said that security staff once beat him and other traders up and later confiscated their goods.

He said that it has become expensive to retrieve his goods as the charges have increased from R75 to R375.

Council spokeswoman Evodia Mahlangu said that security staff acts on council resolutions to help formalise informal trade by removing illegal traders and those trading in prohibited areas.

She denied that security staff have pointed guns at informal traders.

If the traders know of someone who has done so, she added, they should come forward with the information and an investigation will be conducted.

The R375 charge is made up of R50 for impounding of goods, R25 for the release of goods “and R300 for the fine imposed for those who refuse to comply with the by-laws after warnings”, explained Mahlangu.

The traders said that their futures look bleak. They added that the Langalibalele Taxi Rank, where they have been allocated sites to trade from, will not benefit them as their target market are people who walk up and down the streets.

They said that only a few of the traders can be housed inside the rank and that others will be left without work.

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