City grapples with traders

2018-12-12 15:32

The City is working on a plan to support and regulate the informal trading industry after several attempts to deter those operating without permits have failed.

There are approximately 600 informal traders working in different parts of Msunduzi but many of them do not have permits.

Those operating illegally have to constantly be on the lookout for the City’s enforcement officers who sometimes confiscate their stock if they are caught.

Come sun or rain the local informal traders display their goods on the sides of the streets, hoping someone will stop and buy something, but some days they only make enough for taxi fare and a loaf of bread. Most use the money earned from their sales to go towards supporting their families.

Single mother-of-three Sithobile Gumbi from Imbali said she started selling fruit after the death of the father of her children four years ago.

The family struggled without his builder’s income. “We were not rich but we could afford everything that we needed and a few luxuries here and there but things were tough after his death … I tried getting a job as a domestic worker but the family I was working for relocated to Cape Town after a couple of months,” she said.

She makes a profit of about R2 000 a month which supplements the child support grant she receives from government.

Gumbi, along with Willowfountain’s Thulani Chili, are amongst the informal traders operating without permits.

They claimed they had applied to Msunduzi on several occasions.

“When I applied they told me I could go and work on Pietermaritz Street and I refused because that would have killed my business — there are no people to buy my goods there. I want a busy street like Church and Langalibalele where there are always people walking by,” said Chili.

Both said they wanted permits because they came with government benefits such as being part of the recent small enterprise support programme, which was a joint venture between Msunduzi and the Small Enterprise Development Agency.

Those who participated in the programme received training on how they could expand their businesses and they also got equipment such as fridges, gas cylinders and microwaves.

Amos Ndlovu, who has been selling household chemicals for six years, said he wanted a permit because he was tired of running away from the City’s law enforcement officers.

He said sometimes they came several times a day and all of the illegal traders had to flee or risk having their stock confiscated. “We are trying to make an honest living so that we can support our families like they are, but they keep chasing us away,” he said.

The arrival of Msunduzi officers as The Witness was interviewing Ndlovu, saw him fleeing for cover along with other traders. One of the officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the City had to enforce its bylaws otherwise every pavement would be covered with informal traders.

He said there was also the challenge of criminals masquerading as street traders so the visibility of law enforcement officials helped deter them.

Permit holder Ntombi Nkabinde said while she did not like to see the illegal traders being chased away, a part of her felt it was unfair that they did not pay for working in the same space.

“The other problem is that they can stand anywhere they want — even right in front of my stall — because they don’t have demarcated areas where they can trade,” she said.

Nkabinde was aware that some of the illegal traders were foreign nationals so it would be difficult for them to get the necessary permits.

“I don’t want them to stop selling because I know how hard it is to see your family go hungry but it’s unfair on us to have to compete for customers with people who don’t subscribe to the same rules we do.”

Bid to support informal economy 

According to a report that recently came before the executive committee, Msunduzi recognises the challenge of unemployment faced by many of its residents, some who end up working as street vendors.

“Sixty nine percent of people involved in informal economic activity are doing so because it is necessary for them to do so,” read the document.

Plans to re-establish the 2012 informal economy and street trading sub-committee are under way.

This committee — which will guide council on the informal trading industry — will be responsible for the development of policies, lease contracts and other operational management plans for both the informal economy and street trading.

It will also develop tools needed to support the informal economy sector and those include identifying sites that could be demarcated for traders.

Among its tasks will be approaching the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to “motivate why Msunduzi’s special circumstances warrant that a limited number of services [for] street trading sites be demarcated outside certain municipal and provincial government buildings.” 

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  informal traders

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