Tension building up among traders

2018-08-24 17:18

Local vendors operating in the Gatesville CBD have raised concerns about ongoing issues in the busy trading area. 

Ismail Philips, a fruit and vegetable trader, explains that as tension rises among both legal and illegal traders on the City of Cape Town premises, business is slowly becoming a threat to him.

“Many vendors have been issued with fines for either not paying their trading fee or for standing here illegally. I must acknowledge that it is not fair to those paying to trade here, but for some who really can’t afford it, it is a struggle and trading is the only hope to put food on their tables,” says Phillips.

“But this is also making things difficult for other traders. People are coming in slowly, popping up their small businesses in between legal vendors, and this is causing major issues. Not only is it difficult to trade like this, but it is also dangerous as food sellers are trading next to clothing stalls which could catch fire anytime.”

A resident of Rylands who visits the area weekly says the trading area has also become a major health hazard to both consumers and vendors.

“The area is always filled with filth and stinks all the time. We will also find that the owners of several fruit and vegetable stalls are throwing their waste on the sidewalks. It will stay there to rot until the area is cleaned up,” explains Marwaan Badrodien.

“This is not attractive for our community; especially for those travelling from other areas to purchase goods at our trading area. Gatesville CBD is not the same as what it used to be back then, and this is very disappointing.”

Speaking to the public at a subcouncil meeting held at Athlone Stadium last Wednesday, ward councillor Aslam Cassiem explained the vendor issue had been filling up his inbox since the start of his employment in 2016.

He confirmed that several meetings with regard to the trading area had been held thus far to ensure the issue is resolved.

“Over the years, we have noticed that the space has become very crowded due to illegal vendors putting up their businesses in between other stalls, traders using a much bigger space than allocated to them, and the parking area being packed with more illegal stalls, which are not supposed to be there,” said Cassiem.

“A few vendors have been issued with fines thus far and have been approached by Law Enforcement. This is a very sensitive issue and I am trying my best to have it sorted. When I say sensitive, we are talking about people who could be removed from the trading area, knowing that their stalls are their only income to support their families.”

At another subcouncil meeting held last year, City officials confirmed that 11 auxiliary Law Enforcement officers were being employed in the trading area. Cassiem adds that the status quo remains the same since the previous meeting, and the area is rapidly declining, with paving being removed daily and fruit and vegetable stalls still trading illegally.

It is promised that once the trading plan for the area has been approved, Area-Based Management will send in a team to plot and plan areas agreed upon by the councillor and all stakeholders involved.

“I can confirm that there are numerous plans for this area that will be discussed with the community and traders soon. We must work to make the trading area convenient and suitable for both its vendors and consumers. And this is what we heading for.”

Cassiem says representatives from the Area Economic Development Department (AEDD), Steercom and Property Management, among others, met with key members of the Rylands Informal Traders’ Association (Rita) at a recent meeting.

Items discussed included the status of traders’ lease agreements, and they (traders) were very well aware that their lease had lapsed and that Property Management is not intending to renew it.

“However, I don’t think we should focus too much on removing these traders from the area. If we remove them they will have no jobs and that will be another issue. My father traded all these years, and if it weren’t for his fruit and vegetable stall that brought in money, I would not have been able to study at university to fulfill my dreams.

“I also don’t think it is fair that an elderly person who is trading danya from his trolley is fined R1000 by Law Enforcement, while the owner of the fruit and vegetable stall, almost the size of a market on its own, gets no fine. This issue needs to be resolved soon.”

Giving feedback on the issue on behalf of AEDD, Hillary Joseph confirms that the number of Law Enforcement officials monitoring the area has now been reduced to five due to budget reasons.

“We spend about R900 000 of our budget to train and appoint 11 officials, focusing on areas which include Gatesville and Bellville. This was done to look at how we can better this trading issue, and doing so by enhancing the visibility of Law Enforcement,” she explains.

“We want the subcouncil to hear and consider our thoughts that in order to resolve this issue, it requires a comprehensive task team with a budget, and with a legislative delegation where we can hold departments to account.”

Joseph says it is difficult for her team to instruct Law Enforcement to be present to do certain things.

“As part of our assessment there are still lots of challenges in Gatesville CBD. I must say that there were lots of changes done thus far as several operations kicked off to resolve the issue. Traders also came and updated their details at our offices, which hasn’t been done in a long time.

“It was also an opportunity to introduce these traders to our new team who deals with trading enquiries. We recently employed two ladies who worked out a programme from Tuesday to Thursday from 09:00 to 12:00, for trading enquiries only.”

Joseph explains the programme will take place for the next six weeks to stabilise the issue, and traders will be called out to partake in several public meetings.

Subcouncill 11 chairperson, Antonio van de Rheede, adds that Gatesville CBD is a historical place for residents living in the ward and for visitors.

“We need to deal with the formality of this case as this place has been here forever and people prefer to come here over other trading areas. We cannot allow any person, for so many years, to think they are in the law and can break the law. We should look at a way forward for this issue as we want to keep this trading area, but we should first deal with the social issues that come with it.”

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