Left to own devices

2019-03-14 06:00
Langa Informal Traders chairperson Fika Ntobongwana flanked by other traders Kalenga Nyanzinda (left) and Ramontsiwe Rakgabyane (right) standing in front containers near the Langa train station. PHOTO: UNATHI OBOSE

Langa Informal Traders chairperson Fika Ntobongwana flanked by other traders Kalenga Nyanzinda (left) and Ramontsiwe Rakgabyane (right) standing in front containers near the Langa train station. PHOTO: UNATHI OBOSE

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Langa informal traders have accused the City of Cape Town of “marginalising” them while giving all the support to big businesses.

The traders say they have been forced to move and make way for big businesses in the name of development. In 2016, they claim that several traders were forced to move their shipping containers opposite the Langa taxi rank to make way for the construction of a Boxer chain store. Later in the year, more traders say they were moved from the busy section of Sandile Square, opposite the Langa Cemetery to another section closer to the railway tracks, to make way for the construction of a Shoprite store. The moves have had an impact on their business according to Fika Ntobongwana, chairperson of the Langa Informal Traders Association. He said they were closer to people’s homes and train commuters.

Ntobongwana said they are not against the development in the area but they wanted to be informed and be involved in the decision making.

He said when the City forced traders to move in 2016 a promise was made to find a suitable spot for them. “They said it was a temporal relocation and the City will find us a permanent place. They put my container at Zone 8 where it was later burned down by unknown people,” said Ntobongwana

He said like all the other businesses informal traders also pay rent. “Other traders are squatting on other people’s yards for the safety of their businesses. They pay between R1500 to R6000 a month depending to the size of the container,” he said.

Ramontsiwe Rakgabyane, the owner of Back 2 School shoemakers, was allegedly moved next to the railway station. He said: “It was better that side because we were able to ask electricity from the nearby houses. Here we have no electricity and water. Many people closed their businesses and left. Nobody cares about us. We were also told before we moved to this place that it was temporal and we will get space.”

But that never materialised. He claimed some traders were forced to close down because rent was “too expensive”, with some paying up to R3000 a month.

City’s mayoral member for Urban Management Grant Twigg dismissed claims that traders were marginalised.

“Langa covers a small geographical area that is consistent with high trading activity and the area presents significant potential to diversify into other economic activities.

“We believe there is scope for the growth of both the formal and informal businesses hence the need to regulate the informal sector in order to ensure mutually beneficial and growth-enhancing relationships,” said Twigg.

He said the availability of trading space is always challenging and as the City they continue to find alternative space for all traders.

He added that the City has initiated the development of a trading plan to regulate informal trading activity and this should be concluded within the next 12 months.

“The first trading plan has led to the formalisation of container trading near Langa station thereby creating certainty and order for some of the traders. The City will continue to engage traders and facilitate a process to find a sustainable and workable solution,” he said adding that the City’s Informal Trading Department arranges formative and developmental training sessions for traders via their associations.

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