City traders’ struggle

2018-12-12 15:32
A street trader trying to make a living in Church Street in the city centre on Tuesday.

A street trader trying to make a living in Church Street in the city centre on Tuesday. (Ian Carbutt)

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Speaking to The Witness on Tuesday, Mayor Themba Njilo said he knows the hardships informal traders go through because many years ago he also worked among them. 

He said informal traders were major stakeholders in the development of the local economy so the City tries its best to work with, rather than against them.

He said while some might view them as a nuisance, the reality is that many are breadwinners who supported their families through the self-employment opportunities they created.

Njilo said he had always been passionate about working with street traders and wanted to see them developing into successful businesses people.

“I know the hardships they go through everyday because I’ve experienced it myself,” he said.

“Many don’t know this about me but between 1982 and 1985 I also earned my income as a street trader selling mats and clay pots.”

He said it was not easy as the police regularly came out and kicked his stock around, but he never gave up because he needed the money.

“Very few people end up selling on the streets because they want to. They are there to earn a living and that is what also motivated me to get up each and every day to sell my products.

“And because I know how tough that life is, I try to reach out to those who are starting out to see how I can assist them with either stock or equipment.”

The mayor said it saddened him when he met people who told him about their lives of selling on the streets for more than five years.

He said he always encouraged them to pursue other business ventures. “I never saw selling on the street or at parks as being a permanent solution to my financial challenges, so I always encourage people to look into other forms of business or to try and further their studies if they are still young,” he said.

On the enforcement of the informal trading bylaws, Njilo said this was a challenge and the City constantly pleaded with the traders to apply for permits so that they could be assigned proper sites.

He said having legal and illegal traders working side-by-side created conflicts as it was unfair to the legal traders.

“Some of the illegal traders also place their goods in a way that blocks pavements so the pedestrians end up having nowhere to walk and we also receive complaints from business owners about the illegal traders blocking entrances to their shops.”

The mayor said some also used permits belonging to former traders who were no longer operating instead of applying for their own so that the vacant sites could be fairly allocated.

“We also have a problem of criminals who hide behind the guise of informal traders but as the municipality we are doing our best to ensure that there is harmony and proper regulation in the informal sector,” said Njilo.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  traders

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