Taking the city back

2011-02-04 00:00

THOSE who violate the Msunduzi Municipality’s by-laws and virtually “run the city to the dogs” should watch out — the council’s newly launched watchdog, Operation Chihuahua, has already seen off a bunch of law-breakers.

More than 25 illegal informal traders were ordered out of lower Church and Pietermaritz streets, Retief and Masukwana, and instructed to apply for trading permits before returning to their sites.

Some of the illegal traders were operating their stalls within two metres of the traffic lights.

But removing the illegal traders was not an easy task.

The municipal staff conducting the crackdown were led by Mayor Mike Tarr, deputy mayor Jabu Ngubo and the new administrator, Sibusiso Sithole.

They rolled up their sleeves, swept the streets and cleaned the gutters next to the street traders’ stalls.

Traffic officers issued on-the-spot parking fines for cars parked in illegal and no-stopping zones.

The aim of the operation is to win back the city and enforce by-laws against lawbreakers.

The head of Operation Chihuahua, David Gengan, said the clean-up of the inner city is being conducted on three fronts: evictions of illegal traders and demolishing their illegal stalls; switching off illegal electricity supplies of certain businesses; and preventing shop owners from using the pavements to sell their goods.

Gengan said the first steps are to tell informal traders of the objectives about the operation through pamphlets, evict illegal traders, clean the sites where they trade and educate them about how to maintain their sites. Failure to follow the rules will result in fines.

Illegal traders’ names and contact details were taken down and they were encouraged to apply for permits that will be fast-tracked so that they do not lose income, said Gengan.

He added that they will dermacate the trading sites according to the by-laws today.

The second step will be to deploy 231 municipal peace officers to monitor compliance with the by-laws and to issue spot fines.

The third will be to educate people to refrain from littering.

“We will work with the KPCA [Keep Pietermaritzburg Clean Association] to educate our people about littering.

We will work with taxi operators to tell people that they should not dump litter out of the windows,” said Gengan.

During the operation, six illegal structures were removed.

They included a beauty salon erected on a passage between two cellphone shops. The shop had a tiled floor and was found to be using stolen electricity.

Gazebos that traders were using as stalls were taken down.

Tarr and Ngubo said Operation Chihuahua is proving harder to conduct than Operation Pitbull, which was aimed at shutting off illegal power connections.

“The difficulty is that some of the illegal traders have been trading on their sites for more than nine years,” said Ngubo.

Evicted traders in Retief Street did not take matters lying down.

They told The Witness they would go back to trading.

Thulani Hlongwa, a spokesperson for the traders, said the municipality has failed for years to process their street trading applications.

He said that some of the ejected traders have been feeding their families for more that two decades by trading in the streets.

“We had already bought our stock, most of which is perishable, and if we don’t sell it within a day or two we will lose our much-needed income,” said Hlongwa.

Another trader, Nelly Nene, said they do not believe that the municipality will speed up their applications.

She said they were told that they are going to moved to Burger and Bulwer streets.

“We don’t sell our bodies, we are not prostitutes and we will not go to Bulwer Street,” said Nene.

Operation Chihuahua will be tackle Pietermaritz Street today.

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